Blog: Brexit: Angela Merkel says Britain must ‘live with the consequences’ of Boris Johnson’s decision to ditch close alignment with EU – The Independent

Angela Merkel has said that Britain will have to “live with the consequences” of Boris Johnson’s decision to ditch Theresa May’s plans for close alignment with the European Union after Brexit.

With the prospect of a no-deal Brexit looming large after the UK rejected EU demands for a level playing field on environmental and consumer protections and workplace rights, Ms Merkel said that the prime minister’s position pointed towards a “less closely interconnected economy” following the end of a transition period in December.

And she appeared to dash London’s hopes that Germany will devote its six-month presidency of the EU – starting next week – to pushing through a last-minute deal, stating instead that her priority was a pandemic rescue plan for the European economy.

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Ms Merkel was speaking just days after the fourth anniversary of the UK’s referendum vote to leave the EU and almost five months after the formal date of Brexit on 31 January.

Her comments came as the regular European Social Survey by City University London found that 56.8 per cent of Britons would now vote to Remain in or rejoin the EU, compared to just 34.9 per cent who would vote to Leave – the equivalent of a commanding 62-38 split once non-voters are removed. This compared to a much closer 50-44 split in the same survey around the time of the 2016 referendum

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Brexit day: UK says goodbye to EU

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A message projected onto the White Cliffs of Dover

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Big Ben, shows the hands at eleven o’clock at night

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Nigel Farage speaks to pro-Brexit supporters

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Pro-Brexit demonstrators celebrate on Parliament Square

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The Union flag is taken down outside the European Parliament in Brussels

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Pro-EU campaigners outside the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh

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A pro-Brexit supporter jumps on an EU flag in Parliament Square

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EU Council staff removed the Union Jack-British flag from the European Council in Brussels, Belgium

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A pro-Brexit supporter pours beer onto an EU flag

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Pedestrians pass in front of the Ministry of Defence Building on Whitehall, illuminated by red, white and blue lights in central London

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A Brexit supporter shouts during a rally in London

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Pro-EU campaigners outside the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh

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Pro-EU campaigners take part in a ‘Missing EU Already’ rally outside the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh

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A large pro-EU banner is projected onto Ramsgate cliff in Kent

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Pro-EU supporters light candles in Smith Square in Westminster

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A man waves Union flags from a small car as he drives past Brexit supporters gathering in Parliament Square

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The five-year old Elisa Saemann, left, and her seven-year old sister Katie hold a placard during a rally by anti-Brexit protesters outside the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh

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Pro Europe supporters gather on Brexit day near the British embassy in Berlin, Germany

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Anti-Brexit protester hugs a man while holding a placard

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A decorated, old fashioned fire pump in Parliament Square

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Pro Brexit Elvis impersonator performs at Parliament Square

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An anti-Brexiteers stands with his dog in Parliament Square

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Paddy from Bournemouth wears Union colours as he sits next to an EU flag decorated bag in Parliament Square

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A pro-EU activist plays a guitar decorated with the EU flag during a protest organised by civil rights group New Europeans outside Europe House, central London

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People celebrate Britain leaving the EU

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A Pro Brexit supporter has a Union Jack painted onto his face at Parliament Square

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Men hold placards celebrating Britain leaving the EU

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Pro Brexit supporters dance in the street draped with Union Jack flags at Parliament Square

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An anti-Brexit demonstrator spreads his wings during a gathering near Downing Street

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Pro EU supporters display a banner ‘ Here to Stay, Here to Fight, Migrants In, Tories Out’ from Westminster bridge

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Pro-Brexit supporters burn European Union flags at Parliament Square

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A man poses for a picture on Parliament Square in a ‘Brexit Day’ t-shirt

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People celebrate Britain leaving the EU

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A man wears a pro-Brexit t-shirt

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Anti-Brexit demonstrators visit Europe House to give flowers to the staff on Brexit day

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Pro Brexit supporter wears a novelty Union Jack top hat outside the Houses of Parliament

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Customers Scott Jones and Laura Jones at the Sawmill Bar in South Elmsall, Yorkshire, where a Brexit party is being held throughout the day

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Pro-EU activists protest

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A pro-Brexit demonstrator burns a European Union flag

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Pro Brexit supporters

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Pro Brexit supporters

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A Brexit supports holds a sign in Parliament Square

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A man carries an EU themed wreath

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Ann Widdecombe reacts with other members of the Brexit party as they leave en masse from the European Parliament

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Anti-Brexit demonstrators in Parliament Square

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Pro EU supporters let off flares from Westminster Bridge

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British MEPs Jonathan Bullock, holding the Union Jack flag and Jake Pugh leave the European Parliament, in Brussels on the Brexit day

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Newspapers and other souvenirs at a store, near Parliament Square

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Brexit supporters hold signs in Parliament Square

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Pro-EU protesters hold placards in Parliament Square

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French newspapers

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Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald with a Border Communities Against Brexit poster before its unveiling in Carrickcarnon on the Irish border

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National growers organisation British Apples & Pears has renamed a British apple to EOS, the Greek goddess of dawn, to commemorate Brexit day

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Pro-EU protesters hold placards in Parliament Square

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Britain’s departure from the European Union was set in law on January 29, amid emotional scenes, as the bloc’s parliament voted to ratify the divorce papers. After half a century of membership and three years of tense withdrawal talks, the UK will leave the EU at midnight Brussels time (23.00 GMT) on January 31

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A man poses with paintings on Parliament Square

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People sporting Union Flags gather in Parliament Square

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A man walks with a St. George’s flag at Westminster bridge on Brexit day

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A British bulldog toy and other souvenirs at a souvenir store

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British pro-brexit Members of the European Parliament leave the EU Parliament for the last time

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Jonathan Bullock waves the Union Jack as he leaves the European Parliament

EPA

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A message projected onto the White Cliffs of Dover

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Getty

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Big Ben, shows the hands at eleven o’clock at night

AFP via Getty Images

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Nigel Farage speaks to pro-Brexit supporters

PA

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Pro-Brexit demonstrators celebrate on Parliament Square

REUTERS

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The Union flag is taken down outside the European Parliament in Brussels

PA

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Pro-EU campaigners outside the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh

PA

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A pro-Brexit supporter jumps on an EU flag in Parliament Square

PA

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EU Council staff removed the Union Jack-British flag from the European Council in Brussels, Belgium

EPA

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A pro-Brexit supporter pours beer onto an EU flag

PA

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Pedestrians pass in front of the Ministry of Defence Building on Whitehall, illuminated by red, white and blue lights in central London

AFP via Getty Images

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A Brexit supporter shouts during a rally in London

AP

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Pro-EU campaigners outside the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh

PA

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Pro-EU campaigners take part in a ‘Missing EU Already’ rally outside the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh

PA

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A large pro-EU banner is projected onto Ramsgate cliff in Kent

PA

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Pro-EU supporters light candles in Smith Square in Westminster

PA

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A man waves Union flags from a small car as he drives past Brexit supporters gathering in Parliament Square

AFP via Getty Images

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The five-year old Elisa Saemann, left, and her seven-year old sister Katie hold a placard during a rally by anti-Brexit protesters outside the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh

AP

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Pro Europe supporters gather on Brexit day near the British embassy in Berlin, Germany

EPA

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Anti-Brexit protester hugs a man while holding a placard

REUTERS

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A decorated, old fashioned fire pump in Parliament Square

PA

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Pro Brexit Elvis impersonator performs at Parliament Square

Getty Images

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An anti-Brexiteers stands with his dog in Parliament Square

AFP via Getty Images

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Paddy from Bournemouth wears Union colours as he sits next to an EU flag decorated bag in Parliament Square

AFP via Getty Images

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A pro-EU activist plays a guitar decorated with the EU flag during a protest organised by civil rights group New Europeans outside Europe House, central London

AFP via Getty Images

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People celebrate Britain leaving the EU

REUTERS

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A Pro Brexit supporter has a Union Jack painted onto his face at Parliament Square

Getty Images

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Men hold placards celebrating Britain leaving the EU

REUTERS

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Pro Brexit supporters dance in the street draped with Union Jack flags at Parliament Square

Getty Images

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An anti-Brexit demonstrator spreads his wings during a gathering near Downing Street

AP

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Pro EU supporters display a banner ‘ Here to Stay, Here to Fight, Migrants In, Tories Out’ from Westminster bridge

EPA

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Pro-Brexit supporters burn European Union flags at Parliament Square

Getty

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A man poses for a picture on Parliament Square in a ‘Brexit Day’ t-shirt

Reuters

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People celebrate Britain leaving the EU

Reuters

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AFP via Getty

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A man wears a pro-Brexit t-shirt

Reuters

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Anti-Brexit demonstrators visit Europe House to give flowers to the staff on Brexit day

Reuters

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Pro Brexit supporter wears a novelty Union Jack top hat outside the Houses of Parliament

Getty Images

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Customers Scott Jones and Laura Jones at the Sawmill Bar in South Elmsall, Yorkshire, where a Brexit party is being held throughout the day

PA

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AP

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Getty

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Getty Images

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Pro-EU activists protest

Getty Images

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A pro-Brexit demonstrator burns a European Union flag

AP

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Pro Brexit supporters

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Pro Brexit supporters

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A Brexit supports holds a sign in Parliament Square

AP

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A man carries an EU themed wreath

Reuters

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Ann Widdecombe reacts with other members of the Brexit party as they leave en masse from the European Parliament

PA

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Anti-Brexit demonstrators in Parliament Square

PA

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Pro EU supporters let off flares from Westminster Bridge

Getty

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British MEPs Jonathan Bullock, holding the Union Jack flag and Jake Pugh leave the European Parliament, in Brussels on the Brexit day

AFP via Getty

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Newspapers and other souvenirs at a store, near Parliament Square

Reuters

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Brexit supporters hold signs in Parliament Square

AP

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Pro-EU protesters hold placards in Parliament Square

AFP via Getty

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French newspapers

PA

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Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald with a Border Communities Against Brexit poster before its unveiling in Carrickcarnon on the Irish border

PA

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National growers organisation British Apples & Pears has renamed a British apple to EOS, the Greek goddess of dawn, to commemorate Brexit day

AP

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Pro-EU protesters hold placards in Parliament Square

AFP via Getty

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Britain’s departure from the European Union was set in law on January 29, amid emotional scenes, as the bloc’s parliament voted to ratify the divorce papers. After half a century of membership and three years of tense withdrawal talks, the UK will leave the EU at midnight Brussels time (23.00 GMT) on January 31

Reuters

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A man poses with paintings on Parliament Square

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People sporting Union Flags gather in Parliament Square

Getty

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A man walks with a St. George’s flag at Westminster bridge on Brexit day

Reuters

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A British bulldog toy and other souvenirs at a souvenir store

Reuters

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British pro-brexit Members of the European Parliament leave the EU Parliament for the last time

Reuters

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Jonathan Bullock waves the Union Jack as he leaves the European Parliament

EPA

Meanwhile, a separate survey by pollsters Ipsos Mori found a majority (62 per cent) think it is ‘likely’ the UK will leave the EU on 31 December without a trade deal, compared to just 30 per cent who think Mr Johnson will get a deal by the deadline – and 25 per cent who think he can get a deal which is good for Britain.

Almost half (49 per cent) were dissatisfied with Mr Johnson’s handling of Brexit, compared to 38 per cent who were satisfied.

Ms Merkel has previously repeatedly stressed her readiness to strike a deal which would maintain the UK’s current flow of imports and exports with the continent.

But her comments today suggest she now accepts that commercial ties will be less deep unless Mr Johnson amends his plans.

Speaking to a group of European newspapers including the UK’s Guardian, she said: “We need to let go of the idea that it is for us to define what Britain should want. That is for Britain to define – and we, the EU27, will respond appropriately.

“With prime minister Boris Johnson, the British government wants to define for itself what relationship it will have with us after the country leaves.

“It will then have to live with the consequences, of course, that is to say with a less closely interconnected economy.

“If Britain does not want to have rules on the environment and the labour market or social standards that compare with those of the EU, our relations will be less close. That will mean it does not want standards to go on developing along parallel lines.”

Chief Brexit negotiators David Frost and Michel Barnier (Reuters)

Negotiations on a future trade and security relationship between the UK and EU are to resume on Monday after six months in which little progress has been made.

Mr Johnson has formally informed Brussels that he will not take advantage of a two-year extension of talks before Tuesday’s deadline, leaving him six months to strike a deal or see the UK crash out on World Trade Organisation terms with the imposition of new tariffs and other barriers to trade.

The most recent Treasury estimates suggest that a no-deal Brexit on WTO terms could knock 9 per cent off the UK economy over a number of years.

Talks have stalled over EU demands for continued access to UK fishing waters and insistence on a “level playing field” on social, environmental and public health regulations.

Mr Johnson’s chief negotiator this week gave the thumbs-down to a possible compromise under which the EU would agree to give the UK the ability to break free from its rules – in return for the right to impose tariffs on its goods if it did so.

David Frost said on Thursday: “I want to be clear that the government will not agree to ideas like the one currently circulating giving the EU a new right to retaliate with tariffs if we chose to make laws suiting our interests.

“We could not leave ourselves open to such unforeseeable economic risk.”

Keiran Pedley, director of politics at Ipsos MORI, said: “The public are generally pessimistic at the prospect of a good trade deal for Britain being struck with the EU before the transition period ends and the clear expectation is that the UK will exit the transition period without a deal being struck at all.

“Any sense of a lack of urgency in public opinion on this subject may be explained by the fact many are unaware of when the deadline for a deal is, as coronavirus dominates the news agenda.

“Of course, many Brexit supporters will be unconcerned as to whether a deal is struck anyway”.

– Ipsos Mori interviewed 1,127 British adults between 19 and 22 June.

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