Boris Johnson will be told by the EU’s leaders that the British government alone “will have to make the necessary moves” to make a trade and security agreement possible, according to a leaked draft of a summit communique that threatens to derail the negotiation.
The heads of state and government are meeting in Brussels in a setting known as a European council to debate the way forward on the Brexit negotiations, with the prime minister insisting that he could still walk out on the talks.
Johnson has said he will make a decision on Friday, at the end of the two-day EU summit. He is seeking a new round of round-the-clock talks and a commitment to start work on legal text as a price for continuing.
But the EU states do not appear willing to give Johnson an easy ride. A commitment to intensify talks in a first draft of a statement to be issued by the leaders has been deleted from the latest version seen by the Guardian.
Under the latest draft, the leaders would instead say that the EU “notes with concern that progress on the key issues of interest to the union is still not sufficient for an agreement to be reached”.
While confirming that they desire a close partnership with the UK, they will call on Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, to merely “continue negotiations in the coming weeks, and calls on the UK to make the necessary moves to make an agreement possible”.
The leaders will also comment on Johnson’s decision to try and unilaterally rewrite the withdrawal agreement through the internal market bill. They would mandate the commission to take further steps to protect the EU in the event of a no-deal outcome.
“As regards the internal market bill tabled by the UK government, the European council recalls that the withdrawal agreement and its protocols must be fully and timely implemented”, the draft statement says. “The European council calls upon member states, union institutions and all stakeholders to step up their work on preparedness and readiness at all levels and for all outcomes, including that of no agreement, and invites the commission, in particular, to give timely consideration to unilateral and time-limited contingency measures that are in the EUʼs interest”.
It is yet to be seen how Downing Street will react to the leaders’ intended statement. Johnson’s chief negotiator, David Frost, is expected to advise the prime minister that a deal is still possible but that progress on the most contentious issues is proving difficult.
The troublesome areas remain that of how to keep both sides to their pledges, EU access to British fishing waters and the so-called level playing field provisions, which Brussels wants to ensure neither side can undercut standards or overly subsidise parts of the economy to give its companies a competitive advantage in the market.
Pascal Canfin, the chairman of the European parliament’s environment committee, said his member were now examining the repercussions of a no-deal exit.
He said: “A no-deal scenario means addressing many very practical questions: what do we do if, on climate policy, the carbon price of the EU is around €30 and in the UK around €15? It would be a significant hit to fair competition between the EU and the UK, and the EU owes to its companies to avoid having the possibility of a climate dumping at its doors … To cope with this situation, we need a mechanism to ‘correct’ the diverging carbon price, so that UK products and EU products have the same treatment.
“Same question, with food standards: the UK is currently negotiating with the US a trade deal; the American administration has never hidden its will to sell chlorinated chicken to the UK.
“How to ensure, in a situation where the custom checks to enter the EU are done by the UK in the Irish Sea, that no such chicken enters the EU market? Same question again, with chemicals produced in the UK: the process to authorise them on the EU market, the Reach Regulation, is comprehensive and demanding.
“The UK has already announced its will to have its own regulation. What do we do if the future UK system does not match our standards?”