Mixed messages as Johnson doubles down on sovereignty while EU claims it has “found a way”

Boris Johnson insists a trade deal with the EU is far from secure as he sent MPs home for Christmas telling them, “don’t recall us, we’ll recall you” if an agreement is struck at the eleventh hour.

The Prime Minister had geared up his MPs to stick around over the Christmas period to rush a trade deal through Parliament before Britain formally leaves the Single Market on 31 December. But in a move widely viewed as a tactic to apply pressure on Brussels, Johnson told MPs at a meeting last night they could go home this week.

“There’s a good deal there to be done, but if not, WTO, Australia terms it is and as I say we will prosper mightily on those terms as well,” said the Prime Minister. “We’ve just got to make sure that we control our laws and control our own waters.”

However, measures proposed by UK negotiators to meet the EU’s demands, outlined in the Telegraph, suggest Brussels bureaucrats are poised to retain a huge amount of control over UK sovereignty if the two sides can come to an agreement over fisheries.  

According to a diplomatic source, an agreement has been reached over a “strong mechanism of non-regression” on EU standards.

At a briefing on the talks yesterday, European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen described the non-regression compromise as “a big step forward”.

The EU is also expected to gain sweeping powers to punish the UK with tariffs whenever it feels like it is suffering from unfair UK-based competition, a measure that is unheard of in trade deals.   

“The good news is that we have found a way forward on most issues,” Mrs von der Leyen said. However, the two sides are far apart over fisheries: “The discussion is still very difficult. And in all honesty, it sometimes feels that we will not be able to resolve this question. But we must continue to try to find a solution.”

UK sources claim the Government is driving a hard bargain across the board, not just over fisheries.

A British official said: “We’ve made some progress, but we are still very far apart in key areas.”