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The ITV’s political editor insisted EU negotiators were already due to travel to London on Tuesday before Michel Barnier said Brussels was prepared to continue talks across all subjects in a call with Lord Frost on Monday afternoon. Mr Peston branded Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove’s claim that the breakthrough was due to Boris Johnson’s new tough stance with the bloc as “classic Govian spin”.
The political journalist added that November 15 is the “real deadline” for a free trade agreement, as it would still be possible to ratify a deal before that date.
Mr Peston also insisted the EU still expects an agreement to be struck and believes if there is no deal it will be because the Prime Minister wants to blame the bloc for any economic damage caused by Brexit.
In a series of tweets, he said: “Just to be clear, a mob of EU officials were already booked on Eurostar to come to London tomorrow for technical talks on the free trade deal long before the phone call this pm between David Frost and Michel Barnier.
“So Michael Gove’s billing of the intensification of the talks – rather than their collapse – as a great victory for Boris Johnson is classic Govian spin.
“That intensification was inevitable. Johnson’s ‘walk out’ was theatre.
“The real deadline for the talks is 15 November, because any later and ratification becomes impossible.
“The point is that there has been much more progress towards agreement than Michael Gove is prepared to concede.
“In the EU, they still expect and hope for a deal.
“And if there isn’t one, it’s because – they think – the PM will have worked out that there will be massive disruption to UK trade and a hit to the economy even if there is a deal, and it may be better politics for Johnson to blame the EU for that economic damage rather than concede that leaving the single market was always going to bring costs.”
Mr Peston’s tweet comes after Mr Johnson told the UK to prepare for an Australian-style arrangement – a no-deal outcome with trading under World Trade Organisation rules – in a televised statement on Friday.
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The Prime Minister also hit out at the EU for refusing Britain the Canada-style deal it has asked for.
Following Mr Johnson’s statement, UK chief negotiator Lord Frost told his EU counterpart Mr Barnier not to travel to London this week.
But in a call with Lord Frost yesterday, the EU’s chief negotiator offered to “intensify” talks and discuss “legal texts” for a deal – a key British demand.
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Mr Gove told the Commons on Monday that the Government’s “firmness” with the EU is “now bearing fruit”.
He said: “Even as we were exchanging thoughts across the despatch box earlier, it is the case my colleague David Frost was in conversation with Michel Barnier.
“I now believe it is the case Michel Barnier has agreed both to the intensification of talks and also to working on legal texts.
“I think a reflection of the strength and resolution (of) our Prime Minister, in stark contrast to the approach on which the Opposition have often enjoined us of simply accepting what the EU wants at every stage.”
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