A Brexit trade deal is still “a significant possibility” with EU and UK negotiators “90% of the way there” – but it won’t “come at any price”, a cabinet minister has told Sky News.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson briefed his top ministers on Thursday and ordered them to “get on and make those preparations” for a no-deal outcome from deadlocked trade negotiations.
Both sides have set Sunday as a deadline for deciding whether an EU-UK trade deal will be possible, with less than three weeks now left until the end of the Brexit transition period.
But while Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden did echo Mr Johnson’s view that a no-deal outcome might be likely, he also stressed that a trade agreement could yet be struck in the next couple of days.
He told Sky News the UK was “not necessarily” heading towards a no-deal scenario.
“I think there is a significant possibility we could get that deal and I think we should continue to work towards it,” Mr Dowden said.
“We’re pretty much 90% of the way there, but there are these two areas which are outstanding and which no reasonable prime minister could accept.
“Namely, we do need to control our own sovereign waters an particularly our fishing policy.
“And, as we leave the EU, we should be free to set our own rules and regulations and not face penalties if the EU changes their regulations and we don’t match them.
“I think it’s perfectly reasonable to push back on those things.”
Mr Dowden stressed a trade deal “can’t come at any price” and “can’t be achieved by compromising those two very important issues”.
He admitted that the absence of a post-Brexit trade deal on 1 January would make it “choppy” for the UK, but insisted the country could “survive and thrive” over the long-term.