British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said EU negotiators must “bring something to the table” in Brexit talks to avoid the UK crashing out the single market without a deal.
Johnson’s warning came after the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier told MEPs talks had reached the “moment of truth” ahead of the final hours of negotiations with Britain.
Barnier said there are “just a few hours left” for the UK and EU to agree a post-Brexit trade deal.
Earlier, Johnson said a no-deal Brexit was “very likely” unless the EU position changed “substantially” following a phone call with EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday evening.
Speaking in Bolton during a trip to Greater Manchester, the British leader said UK citizens voted for control of the nation’s laws and its fishing rights, a sticking point for the deal.
“No sensible government is going to agree to a treaty that doesn’t have those two basic things in it as well as everything else,” Johnson said, before adding “our door is always open”.
He said the UK side was willing to “keep talking”, but added: “Things are looking difficult and there is a gap that needs to be bridged.”
Earlier, Barnier met fishing ministers from EU states to discuss the ongoing division over the issue.
The UK left the EU on 31 January, but has been following the bloc’s trade rules while the two sides negotiate a trade deal.
If one is not agreed by 31 December, they will go on to trade on World Trade Organization rules, which could see charges introduced on goods being sold and bought – and could lead to an increase in prices.
Barnier said it was the UK that decided on the deadline and the EU would have been willing to extend the so-called transition period into next year so talks could continue.
“If they should leave with an agreement or without, it is nevertheless the Brits that decided on that deadline,” he told the European Parliament.
Johnson has insisted the UK will “prosper” with or without a trade deal with the EU.
If a deal is reached between the two sides, it would need to be agreed by parliaments in the UK and EU.
Senior MEPs in the European Parliament have said they will not be “rushed” into signing off a deal on their side, and want to see the text of any agreement by Sunday if they are to approve it by the end of the year.
UK MPs have now finished for the Christmas break, but Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said on Thursday that they could be called back to ratify a deal in the coming days, were one to be agreed.