The warning in a briefing from sources in Lord Frost’s negotiating team comes as Business Secretary Alok Sharma has told firms that they now need to step up their preparations for the Brexit transition ending without a deal. But the Prime Minister is also facing concerns from senior Conservative MPs and Brexiteers that he will fail to get as good a deal as the one struck with Canada by the EU if he does manage to come to an agreement with Brussels. In a briefing ahead of a crucial week of talks, sources in the UK negotiating team made it clear that the EU’s tactic of deliberately “treading water” and “manipulate the process” means that “time is extraordinarily short”.
A survey of more than 2,700 Conservative members and supporters, with more than 50 percent coming from former red wall areas, has shown strong support for the Prime Minister’s negotiating position.
Around 85 percent agreed the EU has not negotiated in good faith and 92 percent believing that Mr Johnson was forced to bring in the controversial Internal Market Bill to protect the UK because of Brussels’ negotiating tactics.
Michel Barnier, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyan and the Brussels bureaucrats’ “negotiating misjudgements risk producing a crisis”, a source close to Lord Frost noted.
The UK has been “working in good faith” on the basis of statements made by Barnier in private and public at the end of July that mid-October was the last possible date for a deal.
He said that the “real moment of truth will be in October. That is when we will have to be ready to put a draft deal to the European Parliament and to the European Council on 15/16 October if we want it ratified by the end of the year.”
As a result the Prime Minister was clear that this too is the UK deadline in his statement on September 7.
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However a UK negotiating source said “It’s now looking that Michel Barnier won’t be able to get the 27 Member States in the right place to make the necessary moves and show the flexibility needed in time for that date.”
Barnier and the EU have been accused of “using the old playbook in which they thought running down the clock would work against the UK.”
As a result the EU refused to negotiate on texts or to cover issues other than level playing field and fisheries. This meant agendas have been thinner and shorter than they needed to be.
Angry members of the British team have pointed out that all the EU’s tactics have achieved is to get us to the middle of October with lots of work that could have been done left undone, and no agreed draft legal texts to work from either.
The source said: “We need an end to the attempts to manipulate process that the EU side have unsuccessfully used to try to generate tactical advantage in the negotiation. It’s absurd that the EU are using such obvious tactics to filibuster and run down the clock. Ultimately we must stop treading water, otherwise we will simply drown.”
The UK now expects the EU this week to beg for more time to get a trade and security deal sorted out but have warned that Brussels “will need to show creativity and flexibility this coming week” if there is to be any chance of them shifting positions sufficiently to meet the test in the PM’s deadline for an agreement to be in place by the October 15 European Council meeting.
There have been positive signs in recent days with the EU finally conceding that the UK are negotiating as two sovereign equals and there will be no role for the European Court of Justice in the UK.
A Whitehall source noted that “a deal is our preference, but not any cost.”
The Whitehall source said: “The EU’s ambitions of trying to keep oversight and control of UK laws in many areas have now thankfully come to an end. With the exception of fisheries, they are now negotiating on a more realistic basis. There’s lots still to do on the level playing field, but we have come a long way since the beginning of the year. We now need the EU to urgently up the pace, and we need to make progress in these coming days if the process is to stay a meaningful one.”
Michel Barnier’s negotiating misjudgements risk producing a crisis’
Meanwhile, Mr Sharma, the Business Secretary, has warned that companies have just 81 days to put preparations in place for no deal being agreed.
In his letter, the Business Secretary has called on businesses to familiarise themselves with the actions they will need to take, by visiting gov.uk/transition and using the checker tool.
He said: “With just 81 days until the end of the transition period, businesses must act now to ensure they are ready for the UK’s new start come January. There will be no extension to the transition period, so there is no time to waste.
“I urge all businesses across the country to check gov.uk to see what action they need to take, sign up for updates, or attend one of our sector-specific webinars.
“Businesses have a crucial role to play in ensuring a smooth transition, and we will be there to support them through this change every step of the way.”
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However, concerns have been raised by the Centre for Brexit Policy (CBP) thinktank, supported by senior Tories including ex-leader Iain Duncan Smith, that if Mr Johnson does get a deal with the EU it will be worse than the trade deal Canada has with the bloc.
The thinktank’s report highlights 12 areas where the UK comes out worse because of the Withdrawal Agreement signed in January.
John Longworth, director-general of the CBP, the leading pro-Brexit think-tank, said: “In Europe, the devil is always in the detail. The CBP has identified Boris’s dirty dozen – the 12 reasons why the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) and the NI Protocol (NIP) create massive obstacles to our ever agreeing a trade arrangement with the EU that matches the one achieved by the Canadians. They may be 3,000 miles from Europe, but they are much closer than us to having a deal respecting the independence of both parties.”
There are also concerns being raised that the EU has allowed Ireland to break international law by putting an armed support unit permanently by the Northern Ireland border.