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Negotiations on a post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and EU began in March, with just nine months to come to terms on a comprehensive agreement before the transition period deadline of December 31 – a date the UK refused to extend. But six months later, little progress has been made, with both sides refusing to give ground on a number of red lines, most notably fisheries, state aid and Brussels’ level playing field rules and regulations. Mr Johnson is now also pressing ahead with the Government’s Internal Market Bill, which has sparked fury throughout the EU, Brussels warning the UK to scrap the plan before the end of this month as a threat of legal action continues to loom.
The proposed legislation would look to override key elements of the Withdrawal Agreement the Prime Minister came to terms on with the EU and subsequently, break international law.
Downing Street is insisting the Internal Market Bill is needed to protect the Northern Ireland peace process if Britain is unable to secure a deal with the EU.
Mr Johnson’s spokesman said the Government is proposing “limited clarifications” to the law to ensure ministers can preserve the gains of the Good Friday Agreement in the event of no deal outcome between the two sides.
But Best for Britain, the campaign group established in April 2017 to stop Brexit and continue the UK’s membership of the EU, has launched a scathing attack against the Prime Minister and the Internal Market Bill.
Naomi Smith, CEO at Best for Britain, told Express.co.uk any deal agreed with the EU “will be significantly less comprehensive than what was promised”.
She said: “Since the deal struck last autumn, the Prime Minister and his negotiating team have, it seems, at every opportunity in talks ceded UK gains and rowed back on that deal.
“The political declaration was the political basis for a strong future relationship, if not the legal one – and Johnson has torn that to pieces with the Internal Market Bill.
“Put simply, right now Britain and the EU are looking at an extremely low-level deal or no deal at all. Yet the circumstances have changed – not least because of Covid-19 – and the comprehensive deal that all Tory MPs promised as part of their manifesto at the last election is now needed more than ever.
“There have been some positive noises made about the chances of a deal this week, but the simple truth is that even that deal will be significantly less comprehensive than what was promised.
“Instead of getting anything like the Canada FTA, we’ve sought the lowest common denominator and ended up without the key benefits of a good deal.”
Ms Smith claims both Remainers and Brexiteers will be left asking what has happened to the comprehensive FTA that was promised by the Prime Minister when he entered into negotiations with the EU last year.
She warned coupled with the ongoing damaging financial impact from the coronavirus pandemic, the rising probability of a no-deal Brexit means the threat to Britain has become “substantial”, warning Mr Johnson to settle any differences with the EU.
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The Best for Britain CEO said: “On both sides of the fence, plenty of people will be wondering what happened to the comprehensive trade deal that Johnson promised last year.
“Best for Britain’s polling and focus groups show that those who voted Conservative at the last election, and voted to leave in 2016, expect the PM to keep his promise on delivering a comprehensive deal.
“And because COVID was unexpected, they’re happy to give him more time to negotiate it – the British people are pragmatic not dogmatic.
“Brexit has happened – we now need to complete the transition with as little damage as possible.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that, without a comprehensive trade deal, Britain will suffer – there are warnings of customs chaos, the prices of imports are going to rise and even basic foodstuffs are going to get more expensive.
“Coupled with the impact of coronavirus and a depressed global economy, the threat to Britain is substantial, and all sides will want the UK to make every effort to boost our recovery.
“Squabbles and blame games help no one – Britain and the EU need to sort their relationship urgently and the overwhelming feeling is that the Prime Minister needs to step up to the mark, in difficult circumstances, and do his job.”
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