Boris Johnson has claimed there will be no more trade and security talks unless the EU adopts a “fundamental change of approach”, as he seeks to increase pressure on Brussels to give ground in the negotiations.
In a televised statement on Friday, the prime minister said the country would have to prepare for a no-deal scenario on 1 January, with his spokesman further toughening up the rhetoric later in the day.
“The trade talks are over – the EU have effectively ended them yesterday when they said they did not want to change their negotiating position,” the spokesman said, while stopping short of announcing the UK’s intention to decisively walk away.
Downing Street’s bravado was swiftly undermined in Brussels, where officials and leaders leaving an EU summit said they had no reason to believe the negotiations would not continue.
The European commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, tweeted: “The EU continues to work for a deal, but not at any price. As planned, our negotiation team will go to London next week to intensify these negotiations.”
The olive branch was quickly rebuffed by No 10, with the UK chief negotiator, Lord Frost, telling Michel Barnier on Friday afternoon in a phone call that there was no need to come to London next week.
Frost told the EU chief negotiator there was “no basis for negotiations in London as of Monday” unless Brussels came up with a new plan over the weekend, said a Downing Street spokesman.
However, a European commission spokesman said: “As agreed during this week’s negotiations, Michel Barnier held a videoconference today with his UK counterpart David Frost to discuss next week’s negotiations. Both chief negotiators agreed to talk again on Monday to discuss the structure of these talks.”
Describing the move to halt negotiations as a “controlled explosion”, the Brexit analyst Mujtaba Rahman said there was still hope that a deal could be done by the next time the EU leaders meet in Berlin on 15 November.