Raab: EU must make ‘substantial’ shift for Brexit talks to succeed

Talks over a post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union are unlikely to be extended beyond Sunday’s deadline without substantial concessions from Brussels, the foreign secretary has said.

Dominic Raab said Brussels would need to back down from its demands on controlling fishing waters and laws on standards, after Boris Johnson laid out the UK’s demands at a dinner with the European commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, on Wednesday.

“It’s fair to say that, whilst there was a good conversation last night, and it was frank and it was candid, the significant points of difference remain. I don’t think we can keep going on at that pace without having some progress and some flexibility,” he told the BBC.

“On the fisheries, we’ve accepted that there needs to be some sort of transitional period but we must be able to control access to our own waters. We’ve agreed that we’d follow the EU’s approach to free trade deals with countries like Canada and Korea in relation to the so-called level playing field requirements.

“What we’re not going to be treated … is in a way that no other country would accept, and nor would the EU accept. It’s about some basic respect for democratic principles.”

Asked about extending the deadline, which has already shifted several times, he said: “I think it’s unlikely but I can’t categorically exclude it. It depends on the progress made between now and then.”

He suggested talks could continue if it was only a matter of final details but said the Sunday deadline should “help focus the minds” of negotiators on both sides.

Raab sought to put the ball in the EU’s court, insisting Johnson would “leave no stone unturned” in the search for a deal, but stressing that “significant differences” remained. He told Sky News: “We are not going to sacrifice the basic points of democratic principle on fisheries, on control over our laws as we leave the transition period.

“I think it’s important that is recognised on the EU side and if they do, I think the scope for a deal is still there to be done.” But he accused the bloc of lacking “pragmatism and flexibility”.

Stephan Mayer, a state secretary at Germany’s interior ministry, told the BBC no deal “would be the worst solution for both sides”.

Addressing the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, Raab sought to play down the impact on food prices, though he acknowledged there would be “bumps along the road”.

The Tesco chairman, John Allan, has suggested food bills could rise by 5% as a result of the tariffs and disruption from a no-deal Brexit. But Raab told the BBC tariffs would be a “very minor proportion” of food prices.

“Of all the things that will be a challenge, I am not concerned about either supermarket cupboards running bare or the cost of food prices. Equally, there will be some bumps along the road if we don’t get a free trade deal, that’s the inevitable consequence of change.

“But we will be well braced and well prepared to deal with those, and we are going to make a success of leaving the transition period, come what may.”

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