Boris Johnson has claimed no prime minister would be right to accept the trade terms being offered by the EU, as he prepares to fly to Brussels for last-ditch talks.
Asked in the House of Commons by the veteran Tory backbencher Edward Leigh about the prospects for a deal, Johnson said: “Our friends in the EU are currently insisting that if they pass a new law in future with which we in this country do not comply or don’t follow suit, then they want the automatic right to punish us and to retaliate.
“And secondly they’re saying the UK should be the only country in the world not to have sovereign control over its fishing waters. I don’t believe that those are terms that any prime minister of this country should accept.”
Johnson was appearing at prime minister’s questions before travelling to Brussels for talks over dinner with the European commission president, Ursula von der Leyen.
Challenged by the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, about the risks of a no-deal exit from the transition period on 1 January, Johnson claimed the UK would be “a magnet for overseas investment”, whatever the outcome.
“There will be jobs created in this country, throughout the whole of the UK, not just in spite of Brexit but because of Brexit,” he said. “Indeed, this country is going to become a magnet for overseas investment; indeed it already is, and will remain so.”
He said the UK would “prosper” whether the outcome of the negotiations was “a Canada solution or an Australian solution”.
“Australian solution” is Johnson’s shorthand for a no-deal exit from the transition period on 1 January, under which the EU would impose tariffs on British goods.
Starmer accused the prime minister of failing to secure the “oven-ready” Brexit deal he had boasted of during last year’s general election campaign. But Johnson said that had referred to the withdrawal agreement, which allowed the UK to leave the EU on 31 January this year.
“We had an oven-ready deal, which was the withdrawal agreement, by which this country left the customs union, left the single market and delivered on our promises,” he said.
He added that as a result, the UK would be able to implement a new immigration regime, raise animal welfare standards and strike new trade deals with other countries.
The prime minister also attacked Starmer, who was appearing via video-link because he is self-isolating, about Labour’s failure to say whether it would vote for a Brexit deal, accusing him of being “sphinx-like” about the issue.
Starmer said no decision would be made until there was a deal to scrutinise, and he added: “My party will vote in the national interest.”
He pointed to forecasts from the independent Office for Budget Responsibility suggesting that “the cost of leaving the EU with no deal would be higher unemployment, higher inflation and a smaller economy”.