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The former Tory leader has called on the Prime Minister to intervene and hold showdown talks with EU leaders this week in order to break the current impasse and prevent the UK leaving the bloc without a formal trading relationship on January 1. Post-Brexit trade discussions between UK chief negotiator David Frost and his EU counterpart Michel Barnier resume in London today, with outstanding issues over fisheries, state aid and the so-called level playing field on competition.
With just 30 days to go until the official end of the transition period, Mr Hague has criticised the lack of urgency and insisted there has been a “widespread assumption” amongst MPs and financial markets there will eventually be an agreement in place.
But, Mr Hague insists the chances of a deal hang on a breakthrough being made at the “highest level” and warned if leaders do not come together it would be a “failure of statesmanship”.
He said: “It seems more likely that such a happy outcome will require something additional, in the form of talks at the highest level between Boris Johnson and EU leaders, and that some fresh decisions will be required to make a deal attainable.
“Otherwise, it is still possible that January 1 will come round with no framework for cooperation and trade in place at all.”
The UK officially left the EU in January through the withdrawal agreement but remained tied to the bloc during the 11-month transition period.
Four and a half years since the EU referendum, Mr Hague has insisted a no deal outcome would “represent a historic failure” and damage both sides.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he said: “An unsuccessful end to the talks in the coming days would represent a historic failure, with potentially deep damage to future relations and to millions of citizens on both sides.
“The economic damage of a failure would be serious. The Bank of England has said that the long-term consequences of no deal being made would be more serious than those of the Covid pandemic.”
He added: “German carmakers would be hard hit as well as factories in Britain, and agriculture in Ireland, Denmark and the Netherlands would suffer just like sheep farmers in Britain.”
The UK and EU have already agreed more than 600-pages of draft legal text and time is short for both parliaments to be able to ratify and scrutinise any potential deal.
Throughout the negotiations, both sides have maintained a deal remains their main focus but have so far failed to bridge the gap.
Lord Hague insists with time at a premium this will eventually force the UK and EU to shift on their red lines at the 11th hour and get an agreement over the line.
He said: “With time running out, the next few days are the most important for the Brexit process since the referendum itself.
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“The problem is that while both sides genuinely want a deal, they each believe the other side needs one so much that they will offer the crucial concessions at the last minute.”
This morning Michael Gove admitted Brexit talks are “getting close to the wire” and reiterated the desire for a deal.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the Cabinet Office Minister said: “I think it is important we do get a deal if we possibly can. And I think it’s in both our interest.”
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