14:37 GMT31 October 2020
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    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says it's time to get ready for the prospect of no free trade deal with the EU on 1 January, claiming it looks like the country is heading for what he called "the Australian solution".

    Pete Durnell, a political commentator, believes that a deal is still possible and could potentially be concluded at the 11th hour.

    Sputnik: Do you believe that Brexit negotiations between the UK and EU have come to an end?

    Pete Durnell: No, to be honest, I still suspect a last minute deal is going to get done. There were two results possible when we entered these negotiations, deal or no deal, to borrow a phrase. I think one of the big problems for the UK side is we already gave away a great deal when we signed up to the withdrawal agreement. So if we concede another lot more, say in a free trade agreement, we'll basically end up with Brexit in name only, which means we'll be handing over tens of billions of pounds and only to be worse off than we were as full members because we'll have lost our tiny little bit of say when the EU rules get created. So that's what really concerns me, to be honest.

    Sputnik: We've passed the deadline that Boris set for the UK government in terms of getting a deal. Do you think Boris should commit to a no-deal now that we've passed this deadline?

    Pete Durnell: Absolutely, I do. But I don't think he will. If you don't keep your word, basically, your word becomes worthless. Say what you mean and mean what you say, I think is a good way to live your life. I actually predicted a couple of months ago this deadline wouldn't be a deadline; it's not a deadline. Almost certainly negotiations will drag on for many more weeks, or at least several more weeks and Boris won't walk away. I've said it before, the threat to walk away was always our most powerful weapon in our armoury. But it's only that if the EU believes that you're serious about it. And they knew full well Theresa May wasn't and I'm pretty convinced they don't think Boris is either.

    Sputnik: Why do you think the EU and the UK can't find a middle ground in these negotiations?

    Pete Durnell: I think that's probably because there isn't really very much. To take a couple of examples, the French are demanding exactly the same access to our fishing waters that they've had previously and they want it guaranteed effectively forever. We have two choices: concede it and roll over, or stand firm against it. So there's not a lot of middle ground. The EU wants us to sign up to agree, effectively, never to be more competitive than it is, i.e. by relaxing some rules or using state aid. Again, there's not really a middle ground there, we either roll over and sign up, or we stand our ground. If we concede, for example, that we continue to be bound by all their rules or the vast majority of them, then it's kind of Brexit in name only again, we may as well have not left. 

    Sputnik: Businesses here in the UK are still waiting to find out what the future holds for them. How much longer do you think they can wait until there's clarity on what kind of Brexit we're going to have?

    Pete Durnell: They've been waiting a long time already. It's sort of an accepted fact that businesses like or need to know what environment they're going to be operating in or working in going forward. But I think our businesses have lived with Brexit uncertainty now for probably five years. I would say most, if not all, have made good plans and preparations for no deal. Any uncertainty around Brexit probably pales into insignificance compared with the uncertainty with COVID over the next six months. 

    So I think they're pretty well prepared. It's important to remember that we just have to prepare our country, one country, for no deal or potential no deal. The EU has to prepare 27 or ensure that 27 are prepared. So I think they have a lot more to worry about and are probably less ready for no deal than we are, which is kind of our strongest position or the reason why we're in the strongest position.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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