‘Sleepwalking into no deal’ BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg claims EU underestimated Boris Johnson

EU ‘never understood how serious UK was’ says Kuenssberg

Speaking on the BBC’s Brexitcast podcast, Laura Kuenssberg argued the EU “never understood” how serious the UK would be in the Brexit negotiations about refusing to budge on their key red lines. The BBC political editor argued EU leaders are “sleepwalking” into a no deal outcome as both sides refuse to make compromises. As negotiators have reached the last leg of the trade talks, Ms Kuennsberg said: “For all the rhetoric around, the Government wants to absolutely get a deal, that’s the reason they’ve been working so hard in the last few months to try to get there.

“So I think this is more than just a ‘oh look, I tried so hard and fought so hard’ and obviously if there is a deal then the Prime Minister being there in person will show that he’s able to personally claim victory in terms of the optics around this.

“But I really think since the end of last week there has been a real change in the tone and I just wonder if any breakthrough is really possible now.”

Reading a text she received from someone on the EU side, she added: “‘It’s just not going to happen until we change the equation, as long as this side won’t dare to and the UK won’t either.

“‘It feels like we’re sleepwalking into no deal’.

“And I was really struck this morning talking about a former Remainer cabinet minister who thinks they were really getting somewhere, there was really quite a lot of optimism around at the middle of the week last week about this, they feel that France, the Netherlands, the Danes, Spain, all pushed back really hard at the end of last week.

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“And that’s changed things. And now they’re like ‘you know what? We can’t go on like this’.

“And they feel the EU has never understood maybe how serious the UK was about not backing down.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that talks with the European Union on a trade deal were proving “very tricky” ahead of a crunch meeting with Brussels’ top official.

The Prime Minister said he was still hopeful about reaching a deal but it was proving “very, very difficult” to make progress.

Later this week Mr Johnson will head to Brussels for face-to-face talks with European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen in an attempt to salvage a deal, with time running out before the current trading arrangements expire at the end of the month.

Mr Johnson said he hoped the “power of sweet reason” would triumph but Brussels had to accept there were limits to what terms the UK would be prepared to accept.

Boris Johnson says Brexit deal 'looking difficult'

Talks have faltered on the issues of fishing rights, the “level playing field” measures aimed at preventing the UK undercutting the EU on standards and state subsidies, and the way that any deal would be governed.

In a message to Brussels, the Prime Minister said: “Our friends have just got to understand the UK has left the EU in order to be able to exercise democratic control over the way we do things.

“There is also the issue of fisheries where we are a long way apart still.

“But hope springs eternal, I will do my best to sort it out if we can.”

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Mr Johnson’s trip to Brussels is seen as a make-or-break moment for the process after months of talks led by Lord Frost and the EU’s Michel Barnier.

The Prime Minister acknowledged that there may be a point where it is “time to draw stumps” and accept that a deal is impossible.

He said: “There are just limits beyond which no sensible, independent government or country could go and people have got to understand that.”

He again insisted the UK will “prosper mightily” with or without a trade deal with the European Union, despite grim warnings from the budget watchdog and the governor of the Bank of England about the impact.

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