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The rupture in the negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union has escalated, with the British telling EU negotiator Michel Barnier not to bother coming to London next week if the bloc is unwilling to budge.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had earlier indicated that Britain would begin preparing for an Australia-style relationship with the bloc after its informal “transition” membership of the bloc expires at the end of 2020, without a formal trade agreement.

This was due to the EU having made it clear that it was unwilling to countenance a deal that does not involve continued EU control over British fishing waters and British submission to so-called “level playing” rules which would prevent significant deviation from the EU’s regulatory regime, removing a commitment to “intensify” negotiations and indicating that it was entirely up to the British to propose compromises so talks could move forward.

Prime Minister Johnson, who had already pushed back his October 15th deadline for the negotiations, did leave the door open for talks to continue if the EU was willing to amend its demands — but the bloc did not appear to treat his declaration that he was otherwise effectively walking away particularly seriously.

“[EU-UK] talks: the EU continues to work for a deal, but not at any price,” tweeted Ursula von der Leyen, president of the unelected European Commission, which serves as executive of the bloc, as well as the initiator of EU-level legislation.

“As planned, our negotiation team will go to London next week to intensify these negotiations,” she added — a slight climbdown from the bloc’s earlier move to excise references to “intensification” of talks from the conclusions of its latest summit, but also an effective assertion of business as usual — and a dismissal of Johnson’s effective ultimatum.

This blasé attitude towards the Prime Minister’s statement appears to have gone down poorly in Downing Street, with his spokesman now briefing journalists that, contrary to von der Leyen’s confident assertion, the EU’s chief negotiator need not bother coming to London unless he is willing to commit to intensified talks without the UK being expected to “make all the moves”, or to “discuss the practicalities” of things like “travel and haulage” in the event of a no-deal exit.

“Trade talks are over. The EU have effectively ended them by saying they do not want to change their negotiating position,” the spokesman said.

“There is only any point in Michel Barnier coming to London next week if he’s prepared to address all the issues on the basis of a legal text in an accelerated way without the UK required to make all the moves, or to discuss the practicalities of travel and haulage,” he added.

“If not there is no point in coming.”

While this is a significant escalation in rhetoric, however, it does not formally close the door on the negotiations, with the door clearly open to continuing them if the EU is willing to discuss compromises in an intensified manner.

This story is developing…

Follow Jack Montgomery on Twitter: @JackBMontgomery
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