Earlier on Sunday, which had been set as the deadline just a few days ago, Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen issued a joint statement, saying both sides were willing to “go the extra mile” in talks on future trade relations.
“I’m afraid we’re still very far apart on some key things. But where there’s life, there’s hope, we’re going to keep talking to see what we can do,” Johnson told reporters in London shortly afterward, adding that the UK “certainly won’t be walking away from the talks.”
“But I’ve got to repeat, the most likely thing now is, of course, that we have to get ready for WTO terms, Australia terms,” he said.
As things stand we are still very far apart on key issues. There’s still a deal to be done, but the most likely thing is that we’ve got to be ready for Australia terms on 1st January.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) December 13, 2020
“WTO terms” and “Australia terms” are euphemisms the British government uses to refer to a no-deal Brexit, as Australia does not yet have a free trade agreement with the EU and trades with the bloc under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
The UK officially left the EU in January, but trading arrangements such as tariffs and quotas have remained unchanged during the Brexit transition period, which will end on Dec. 31.
If no trade deal with the EU is reached by then, Britain will default to trading with the 27 EU countries under WTO rules.
Johnson reiterated that the two sides “remain very far apart” on two key issues—“the UK can’t be locked into the EU’s regulatory orbit, and we’ve obviously got to take back control of our fisheries.”
He said the UK was ready to trade on WTO terms as it has “made huge preparations for this” during the four and a half years since the country voted for Brexit in June 2016.
The EU has set out a series of “targeted contingency measures” in preparation for the disruption a “no-deal” Brexit would cause.
The Food and Drink Federation told Parliament on Tuesday that the UK’s food supply chain could face disruption when the Brexit transition period ends.
Lily Zhou and Reuters contributed to this report.