We cannot keep Brexit negotiations going forever, insists minister

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Britain “cannot keep negotiating forever” with the EU over Brexit, a minister has insisted while attempting to ease concerns over a no-deal scenario.

Cabinet Office minister Penny Mordaunt said the trade talks with Brussels are at a “key stage” and they need to be escalated in the coming weeks.

She repeatedly ruled out extending the transition period beyond December this year and pressed the need for the UK to be treated as a “sovereign equal”.

Tory colleague Jerome Mayhew (Broadland) also asked Mordaunt if an extension of the transition period would “serve no useful purpose” other than to cost the UK money, prolong business uncertainty, “delay effective control of our borders” and hamper the response to the Covid-19 crisis.

The minister replied: “The honourable gentleman is damn right.”

Read on...

Answering an urgent question from Labour about the fourth round of Brexit talks, Mordaunt earlier sought to offer assurances that Britain’s supply chains will hold up should no trade deal be agreed with the EU.

She told the Commons: “We have the Covid crisis going on. I know [shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves] is aware of the huge amount of work that was done last year on no-deal preparations, but also the tremendous work that civil contingencies and all government departments have been doing to ensure that supply chains remain strong, that we can quickly adapt, that we do have stocks of all sorts of goods – including medicines – that we need.

“Those are challenging times in light of what the world is facing at the moment, but that is our focus and I can assure her of the incredible work that those civil servants are doing to ensure our citizens have what they need when they need it.”

Mordaunt also said: “We cannot keep negotiating forever; we have to allow our businesses, our farmers, our citizens time to implement the decisions taken.

“And that is why we are at this key stage now where we have to increase and escalate negotiations because we need to arrive at a deal soon.”

For Labour, Reeves said the task is to build the “best possible new relationship” with the EU and agreed the negotiations need to be concluded in good time before warning: “Currently we’re in the dark about what this new relationship looks like.”

Reeves said warnings had emerged about the impact of Covid-19 on medicine stockpiles, adding: “We urge both sides to redouble efforts over the next few days and weeks to ensure progress is made by the end of this month so the government can honour its commitment to ensuring a good deal for Britain by the end of this year.”

SNP Cabinet Office spokesperson Pete Wishart mocked the government for blaming the EU over an inability to reach a trade agreement.

He said: “It’s going to be misery heaped on misery as Covid and Brexit appear like the twin horsemen of the economic apocalypse trampling over any prospect of a recovery.

“And whose fault is it going to be? Obviously them, nothing to do with us guv’, it’s all these nasty, invidious Europeans, how dare they hold this government to the commitments they’ve already given in good faith? These fiendish Europeans asking us to deliver on what we’ve already agreed to.”

He added: “When you see them sitting down to negotiate, it’s like watching the Scotland B team taking on Brazil of the 1970s, it’s almost cruel to observe.

“Them (the EU negotiators) with their screeds of documents and facts, and team GB with their ill-fitting clown shoes.”

Tory former cabinet minister Julian Smith said: “Many businesses haven’t realised the consequences of coming out of the single market and the customs union. We can start preparing them for that reality.”

Mordaunt replied: “We are already in discussions with businesses in every part of the UK.”

Theresa Villiers, another Tory former cabinet minister, added: “The nature of the trading relationship that the UK is now seeking with the EU means that whatever the outcome of the negotiations the formalities that exporters will need to comply with will change on January 1.

“So can I urge the government to step up engagement so businesses across the across the country – large and small – are ready for the end of the transition period?”

Responding, Mordaunt said: “We hope to be able to start doing that very soon indeed.”

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  • Show Comments
    1. Brexit talks are at stalemate because British government is trying to ‘have its cake and eat it’. Johnson made promises to British voters, and to EU in an agreed ‘political statement’ as recently as December 1919 but he has since U-turned on every promise. No one trusts Johnson, neither British voters nor EU negotiators, because he is a serial liar. Johnson is seeking impossible concessions from the EU, against their vital economic and political and existential (health, environment, food supply, human rights) interests and in return all the UK offers are promises not to subvert EU laws, trading standards, economic security, and consumer protections. Which sane person would trust Johnson or any of his team on nothing more solid than a promise of good will? Because Johnson is a totally corrupt person, the only rational choice for the EU is ‘no deal’ and the hardest of hard borders to ‘quarantine’ the EU against harm done by the UK. This might hurt the EU, but it would cripple the UK economy. ‘No deal’ is economic suicide for the UK and yet it looks like the only outcome possible because Johnson has burnt every other bridge.

      Meanwhile, Johnson and the same British government are negotiating trade deals with the US, Turkey and China. Johnson and the Tory party solemnly promised not to negotiate away British food standards, high animal welfare, and responsible farming practices, not to accept ‘chlorinated chicken’ or hormone-injected beef, of pesticide ridden and GM-modified grains and vegetables, or foods containing such ingredients in talks with the USA. But it is on record that British government have agreed to discard our EU-equivalent food and agricultural standards in order to obtain a trade deal with the US. Having lied to British voters, offered to lower our standards, and remove consumer health and ethics information from food labels, the same British government expects the EU to make ‘special arrangements’ for the UK to export its products, including products imported from the US without labels, without quality checks at the UK-EU border? This is not even a sane suggestion.

      British government claims EU is being ‘unfair’ in not making concessions to UK that the EU has refused to every other trade partner, including the USA itself. This is complete misrepresentation of the reality. The UK is offering to be a ‘Trojan Horse’ for the US, a way to smuggle low quality exports into the EU, putting ‘made in Britain’ on chlorinated and chemical-ridden muck from the US in the hope the EU will just nod these goods through at the (Irish?) border.

      It is obvious that the British government is not negotiating in good faith. It has repeatedly lied to British voters and the EU. I would not be surprised if they also tried to lie to the US. I doubt the US would be as kind to British liars as the EU have been thus far. I am just stunned at the magnanimity of the EU. But I think even the EU has lost all patience and now just wants the UK gone.

      Now Trump is in trouble, the British Tory government is looking like ‘Johnny No Mates’. I doubt a Biden government would humour Johnson as much as Trump has done. The UK is making any concession to get a USA trade deal just for the propaganda value. But it looks like events have overtaken them. Brexit was racist, now the BLM protests spreading around the globe from the US outwards look like they might destroy Trump and his allies in the UK. How ironic, and how satisfying that racism is finally getting held to account.

      But that leaves the UK adrift with no trade deals to replace the EU trade they have recklessly thrown away out of extreme ‘Britannia Unchained’ ideology – pure hogwash. Which is why Johnson is now desperately trying to negotiate trade deals with Turkey and China – yes, the same Turkey used as a ‘bogeyman’ by Vote Leave and the same China attacked continually by Tory backbenchers. This is ‘global Britain’ – a morally and economically bankrupt country, under a government that has defamed all its former and future allies, lied to all, tried to cheat all, and in the end is probably going to be reduced to accepting whatever deal the likes of Erdogan, Xi, Bolsonaro, Putin or Kim of North Korea deign to grant us if we grovel sufficiently. Just to remind everyone, food imports from those countries come with no guarantees – they also abuse farmed animals, adulterate food, refuse to label food accurately, and experiment with GM and other ‘franken-foods’. We might escape ‘chlorinated chicken’ but only to be fed chlorinated Turkey. Yummy!

    2. 1919? 2019 – sorry, typo.

      Incidentally, Labour opposition to Tory brexit strategy is so ‘barely there’ that I wonder why they bothered? SNP has more to say, and says it with more thought and passion. Have Labour stopped doing politics, then?

      Someone wake up Kier ‘missing in action’ Starmer and tell him being ‘forensic’ at PMQs might win points in some ‘Westminster Bubble’ chess game but it counts for bugger-all when the only opposition that matters is the opposition marching through our streets.

      I can only hope that the same effort that went in Extinction Rebellion and BLM goes into a protest against the brexit fiasco and the sinister, secretive trade deal negotiations busy throwing away our access to ethical, healthy food and a successful economy. Its a pity we cannot unite all these different vital protests under one banner. Oh, I dunno something like a political movement, which puts together a group of policies on environment, on racism, on food policy, on trade, on the economy, and campaigns to get elected into power to change stuff for the better. Hmm, what would we call that? What kind of thing do we need to ‘make democracy work for the British people’? Oh, lightbulb flashing in my brain: is it…, is it…, hang on – almost there…, is it…. a (ow, my brain hurts) a po..po…political party?!? A ‘political party’ that stands for good stuff and opposes bad stuff, is that the answer? Now, why didn’t Labour think of that?!?

    3. Can’t go on forever ? They need to start !!! Telling the EU that we will not budge on anything is hardly negotiating its just plain stupid, the only thing that might save Johnson’s rabble is that the EU are worried about France and what will happen after Macron is defeated.

      Ask the British public and they would tell you no to GM crops no to steroids and. Hormones in beef and no to chemical chickens, but then they would probably also say get rid of foreigners and we want to make our own laws !!! And we want our democracy back !!!!!! Democracy ? What Democracy are we talking about ? The one that sells bombs so they can be used to kill children in the Yemen? Or the one that is over seeing the second worse death rate from Covid 19 ??

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