Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has warned that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is ready to "sell out" for a trade deal with the European Union (EU).
The man dubbed 'Mr Brexit' for his leadership of the 2016 campaign to leave the EU warned that Johnson's Wednesday night dinner date with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen could spell betrayal for the 17.4 million Britons who voted to leave.
Farage pointed to UVDL's language when she tweeted that she and BoJo would discuss a "partnership agreement" - and not a simple trade deal as Downing Street insists it wants.
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) December 9, 2020
Farage had already noted this week that the last five British PMs had been "ambushed" at meetings with EU leaders. When Johnson's predecessor Theresa May intervened directly in talks over the Withdrawal Agreement, she made concessions that saw the newly-formed Brexit Party come first and the Tories relegated to fifth place - prompting her resignation and Brexiteer BoJo's rise to power.
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) December 7, 2020
And the Brexit Party leader sounded the alarm over Cabinet Office Secretary Michael Gove's agreement with EU Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic on customs arrangements for Northern Ireland - which headed off a looming showdown between London and Brussels.
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) December 8, 2020
British chief negotiator Lord David Frost said on Tuesday evening that Johnson would fly to Brussels on Wednesday for "dinner" with von der Leyen, who had just tweeted her comment on the "partnership agreement".
— David Frost (@DavidGHFrost) December 8, 2020
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) December 8, 2020
That meeting was scheduled after talks between Frost and his EU counterpart Michel Barnier collapsed early this week. The Daily Mail quoted sources who said that von der Leyen had made concessions - while Barnier was self-isolating after being exposed to coronavirus - that brought a trade deal within reach.
But when Barnier returned to the latest round of talks in London last week, he re-tabled old demands that Downing Street would not accept, throwing the negotiations back into stalemate. They include "lightning" tariffs to be slapped on the UK immediately if it does not follow any EU regulations made in the future.
Von der Leyen's home country Germany wants tariff-free trade with Britain, a major market for its industrial products including motor vehicles. But in France, from where Barnier hails, the politically-influential fishing lobby is demanding continued access to British waters after the post-Brexit transition period expires on December 31 - a condition which Johnson has always insisted is a red line for the UK. Last week French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune said Paris would veto any agreement which did not include fishing access.
Answering questions in Parliament ahead of his departure on Wednesday, Johnson repeated that "a good deal is still there to be done" - but only if Brussels drops its demands on fishing and "level playing-field" rule-taking for Britain
"Our friends in the EU are currently insisting that if they pass a new law in the future with which we in this country do not comply ... then they want the automatic right ... to punish us and to retaliate," the PM stressed.
"They are saying that the UK should be the only country in the world not to have sovereign control over its fishing waters. And I don't believe that those are terms that any prime minister of this country should accept,” he added.
Leading Conservative Euro-sceptic MP John Redwood tweeted that a no-deal Brexit was looking more attractive than ever as the talks neared their endgame.
— John Redwood (@johnredwood) December 8, 2020
But the Cotonou Partnership agreement between the EU and African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) nations is a trade deal signed in 2000. Brussels claims the agreement is based on "partners’ equality" and "security and political stability", but continues to impose tariffs on processed foods from those countries such as chocolate, tea and coffee. French troops intervened militarily in Ivory Coast - a major cocoa producer - in 2011 to depose president Laurent Gbagbo, and have been deployed in Mali since 2013 to defend the recently-deposed government from insurgents.