16:00 GMT15 January 2021
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    Former UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, who led the 2016 referendum campaign to leave the EU, has argued since then that the UK should leave without delay, a transition period, a withdrawal agreement or a trade deal.

    Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has re-stated the UK should have left the European Union (EU) without a deal right after the 2016 referendum vote to Leave.

    Farage’s comments to Sky News on Thursday came after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen extended the deadline to agree a post-Brexit trade deal yet again, despite the key sticking points remaining unresolved.

    "We should've left four years ago, and whatever short-term bumps in the road there may or may not have been, should've been dealt with then," he said. 

    Pressed on whether a no-deal Brexit would endanger Britons' livelihoods - already threatened by COVID-19 restrictions - and cause "transport chaos" at ports, Farage said his home county of Kent was "used to that".

    "30-mile queues on the M20 I'm afraid is a common occurrence, because we get gales in the Channel or we get the French fishermen protesting. We are used to that," he said - and insisted there were technical solutions to the problem of customs checks.

    "We are living in the 21st century, when any sort of customs declaration can simply be done on an iPhone. You can see that on the American-Canadian border. It's not that difficult," he insisted.

    Farage admitted businesses which export to Europe would "suffer a short-term hit on tariffs," but argued that charges on imports from the EU - with which the UK has a hefty trade deficit - would compensate for that.

    "If the EU charges us tariffs, and we charge them tariffs, we'll be better off to the tune of seven, eight, nine billion pounds a year. So we will be able, in the short term, to help anybody that is disadvantaged."

    Farage stressed that none of the "terrible economic predictions about what would go wrong if we even dared to vote for Brexit" had come true.

    "Any shot-term problem is of course dwarfed by the pandemic," he asserted, "and by being free of the single market, by being able to set our own regulations, I'm 100 per cent confident that's the path to a more prosperous Britain." 

    Farage, who as UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader steered the successful 2016 referendum campaign to leave the EU, has insisted since then that the UK should leave the bloc immediately without conditions or a trade deal. Parliament voted in 2017 to invoke Article 50 of the EU charter to leave the bloc with a two-year notice period, but did not formally leave until January 31 after manoeuvring buy Europhile opposition parties and rebels on the ruling Conservative benches. A post-Brexit transition period is due to expire on December 31. 

    Johnson flew to Brussels on Wednesday evening for last-ditch wrangling with von der Leyen over dinner, after trade talks in London between British chief negotiator Lord David Frost and his Commission counterpart Michel Barnier broke down.

    Sources said Barnier, just returned from self-isolation for after being exposed to coronavirus, re-tabled demands unacceptable to Downing Street that von der Leyen had dropped in his absence. The French government had also threatened to veto any deal that did not promise long-term access for its fishermen to British waters.

    They agreed to continue the talks until Sunday despite "very large gaps" remaining on the issues of continued EU rights to most of the catch in the UK's extensive fishing waters, Brussels' demands that the UK submit to current and future EU regulations to prevent British businesses out-competing those in the bloc, and for the EU's court to rule on any disputes in the trade deal.

    Von der Leyen tweeted the EU's contingency plan for a no-deal Brexit - which included a six-month extension of current arrangements for road, rail and air travel and freight between the EU and UK, but a one-year continuation of fishing rights.


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