Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that Britain could call an end to post-Brexit trade talks without a deal being reached, a day after he agreed to meet the European Commission head in a last-ditch attempt to break the stalemate.
With just over three weeks before Britain finally completes its departure from the bloc, Johnson is supposed to meet European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen in the coming days after negotiators failed to close the gaps.
Both sides have called on the other to compromise to get a deal over the line but neither has been forthcoming, and see the meeting as the last throw of the dice to see if there is a way through to narrow the positions.
Since Britain left the EU in January, the two sides have been stuck over three issues, raising the prospect of what many businesses say is their nightmare scenario - no agreement to govern around $1 trillion in annual trade.
Asked if he would try to do a deal right up until the wire, Johnson told reporters: “Yeah of course.”
“We’re always hopeful but you know there may come a moment when we have to acknowledge that its time to draw stumps and that’s just the way it is,” said Johnson, using a cricketing term for the end of play.
“We will prosper mightily under any version and if we have to go for an Australian solution then that’s fine too,” he added. Australia has no free trade deal with the EU, which means the bulk of its trade is on WTO terms. Britain on Tuesday repeated its red lines in the talks, as did France, which has taken a particularly tough line among EU members.
A senior British government source said there was “every chance we are not going to get there”.