A source close to the UK chief negotiator David Frost has said that the deal signed in January has “unfair defects” which Mr Johnson’s government did not have time to remedy but which Britain has now brought back to the table. The move was accompanied with a blistering attack on the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier who stands accused of “thinking he is the referee when actually he is a player on the pitch” in the talks.
The fallout follows the end of round four of talks which concluded this week with recriminations from Mr Barnier who was rattled by Britain’s refusal to bend to EU demands.
It comes as a poll in the US showed that American voters backed a trade deal with the UK.
The poll, conducted by the Democracy Institute thinktank in Washington, shows that 55 per cent believe a UK trade deal is good for the US and 58 per cent that Britain is the USA’s best ally.
Meanwhile, Mr Johnson is popular in America with 51 per cent approval and just 30 per cent unfavourable while 43 per cent think Brexit is good for the UK with 33 per cent believing it is bad.
Boris Johnson is threatening to tear up Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement
Michel Barnier condemned Britain’s tactics last week
With Britain toughening up its position on China, Whitehall sources have said that a UK/US trade deal is now moving ahead quickly, putting more pressure on the EU.
The frustration appeared to get to Mr Barnier on Friday when he attacked Britain and accused it of not wanting to fulfil its commitments in the Withdrawal Agreement.
While a source close to the UK negotiating team said that the tone of talks had been “positive” they pointed out that the Political Declaration attached to the Withdrawal Agreement is not binding.
Instead it states that it “establishes the parameters of an ambition, broad and deep partnership.”
Mr Barnier has demanded that Britain comply with pledges he said it made in the declaration.
But the source said: “The EU are unfairly characterising the Political Declaration.
The EU are unfairly characterising the Political Declaration.
“Establishing a framework is not the same as meaning everything must go in a legally binding treaty. Michel Barnier seems to think he is the referee when actually he is a player on the pitch.”
However, the source also made it clear that the Prime Minister wants “defects” in the Withdrawal Agreement itself, made by his predecessor Theresa May and her chief negotiator Olly Robbins, to be fixed.
A government source said: “Unfortunately we couldn’t fix every defect with the Withdrawal Agreement last autumn – we had to prioritise abolishing the backstop and getting Brexit done in the face of a Parliament that was trying to stop us. We’ll now have to do our best to fix it but we’re starting with a clear disadvantage.”
As an example, they highlighted a problem over geographical indications (GIs) which have come up in the negotiations.
GIs are used to identify a product as originating in a particular country or region where its quality, reputation or other characteristic is linked to its geographical origin – such as Scottish whisky and salmon.
UK trade: US voters are backing a trade deal across the Atlantic
The UK team has made proposals to improve the arrangements in the Withdrawal Agreement with more balanced arrangements ensuring appropriate protection because EU GIs are protected in the Withdrawal Agreement, but UK GIs are not.
The Prime Minister has insisted that he will stick to the pledge of ending the transition period even without a final deal on December 31.
Because the EU has been accused of “dragging its feet” over negotiations and trying to force unfair demands on Britain including access to British fishing waters and forcing the UK to accept EU laws and the jurisdiction of the European Court, it could see aspects of January’s agreement come into question.
Brexit view: US voters think Britain is right to break away
Former cabinet minister Owen Paterson, chairman of the Centre for Brexit Policy thinktank, said: “The EU continue to make ridiculous demands that they have never asked from other third countries when negotiating free trade agreements.
“They haven’t got their head round the fact that we are an independent country. The UK Government could not be clearer – there will not be an extension.
“Because of the EU’s unreasonable behaviour, it is likely that the UK will trade under World Trade Organisation terms – an arrangement we will thrive under.
“The benefits Brexit offers us as a nation are absolutely crucial to rebuild our economy following the damage done by coronavirus.”