Boris Johnson has threatened to walk away from post-Brexit trade talks in June unless there is a ‘broad outline’ of his desired deal by then.

The government has unveiled a tough negotiating mandate that pits the PM on a collision course with Brussels for the next four months as the two sides seek to hammer out a new relationship.

According to an official government document released this morning, Johnson’s administration wants to see the ‘broad outlines’ of a ‘Canada-style’ deal by the time he meets with EU leaders in the summer.

The government has until the end of the year to negotiate a trade deal on everything from fishing to transport, but may pull the plug and focus on preparing for a no-deal if progress hasn’t been made by then.

The negotiation guidelines envisaged the ‘broad outline of an agreement’ by the June meeting, which would be ‘rapidly finalised’ by September.



The mandate states: ‘If that does not seem to be the case at the June meeting, the Government will need to decide whether the UK’s attention should move away from negotiations and focus solely on continuing domestic preparations to exit the transition period in an orderly fashion.’

The back-up plan is preparing for what used to be called a ‘no deal’ scenario – trading with the EU on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms.

Critics say crashing out on WTO  rules – the terms countries use to set tariffs on goods when they do not have free-trade deals – could damage the economy.

Whatever the outcome of the talks, businesses have been warned to expect friction at the border from January 1 because the UK will not extend the transition period and will therefore be leaving the EU’s single market and customs union.

The two sides have previously clashed over the terms of their future relationship. Today, the war of words got nastier with both accusing each other of reneging on promises made in the Political Deceleration agreed last year.

This was when the UK and EU agreed to work towards a deal ‘encompassing robust commitments to ensure a level playing field’.



Downing Street insiders indicated Mr Johnson believes the mandate he won at the general election trumps the declaration, which does not have the status of a binding international treaty.

Brussels called for its standards to be used as ‘a reference point’ in any agreement, indicating it expects the UK to stay closely aligned with EU rules on issues such as state subsidies, environmental standards and workers’ rights.

Boris Johnson has repeatedly rejected calls for a close alignment of rules in any future relationship in his push for a hard Brexit.

The UK mandate makes it clear that the government  ‘will not negotiate any arrangements in which the UK does not have control of its own laws and political life’.

Senior Cabinet minister Michael Gove told MPs today: ‘The UK Government seeks a FTA (free trade agreement) with robust protections for the environment and labour standards.

‘But we do not see why the test of suitability in these areas should be adherence to EU law and submission to EU models of governance.

‘The EU does not apply those principles to FTAs with other sovereign nations and they should not apply to a sovereign UK.’


He dismissed Brussels’ arguments that stricter measures are necessary because the UK is closer to the EU than countries such as Canada, saying ‘geography is no reason to undermine democracy’.

Green MP Caroline Lucas said his statement showed we were heading for a no deal ‘with catastrophic results’.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said the strategy was ‘reckless’ and ‘endangered working people’s jobs and rights’.

The government has promised to carry out a consultation exercise on the economic impact of the future relationship, but acknowledged that whatever the outcome of the talks, there would be friction in trade between the UK and EU.