EU states urged not to make side deals with UK in event of no-deal Brexit

European Union Member States have been warned by Brussels to not break ranks or entertain the idea of side deals with Britain should trade talks fail, the Financial Times reported on Friday, citing a diplomatic note. Brussels believes ‘incentive must be maintained’ and that any actions that would ease the consequences of a no-deal end to the Brexit transition period on 1 January should be prevented.

“A deal would, of course, be preferable, but it is beginning to look like the question is not whether we can stop the Brexit ship hitting the rocks, but how it can be refloated,” one source said.

With negotiators making a last-ditch attempt to secure a breakthrough, UK prime minister Boris Johnson on Friday warned that it was “very, very likely” Britain would leave the single market without a trade deal.

“It’s looking very, very likely we’ll have to go for a solution that I think will be wonderful for the UK. We’ll be able to do exactly what we want from 1 January. It will obviously be different from what we set out to achieve,” Johnson told reporters.

“If there’s a big offer, a big change in what they’re saying then I must say that I’m yet to see it,” said Johnson, the face of the “leave” campaign in Britain’s 2016 Brexit referendum.

Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission president, also told EU leaders at a summit in Brussels that there was a “higher probability” that talks would fail than succeed. Despite this, senior EU figures, including the Irish and German foreign ministers, on Friday said they continued to believe an agreement was possible. 

Brussels and London will decide on the fate of the talks on Sunday, when they must break the deadlock over fishing rights and EU demands for Britain to face consequences if in the future it diverges from the bloc’s rules.

Johnson must also decide whether the deal on offer is worth taking or the future freedom and domestic political benefits afforded by leaving without one outweigh the economic costs.

A Brexit without a trade deal would damage the economies of Europe, send shockwaves through financial markets, snarl borders and sow chaos through the delicate supply chains which stretch across Europe and beyond.

More on this subject: Brexit

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