‘Brexit in name only’ fears as former MEP warns EU will have ‘very solid plan’

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Former Brexit Party MEP Alexandra Phillips blasted Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, which he struck with the EU last October. She insisted it is almost identical to the agreement former prime minister Theresa May negotiated with Brussels.

Ms Phillips told Express.co.uk: “I’m afraid to say that what Boris Johnson has lumbered us with, the Withdrawal Agreement, is basically the same thing Theresa May penned that he called vassalage.

“The same deal that Boris Johnson called vassalage, the Withdrawal Agreement, is basically what went into print and is now part of statute.

“The most unsavoury aspects of that were just essentially moved into the Political Declaration which he said was not legally binding.”

The ex-MEP warned the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier is “deliberately” referring back to the Political Declaration.

She said: “Michel Barnier is being very deliberate about constantly referring back to the Political Declaration and making sure we’re well aware that if we deviate from it we’re not acting in good faith because that was part of the initial negotiations and strategy that Boris Johnson then signed off.”

As Britain and Brussels push on with post-Brexit talks, Ms Phillips added: “I wouldn’t put it past the EU to have a very solid plan.”

And the former MEP warned any agreement could turn out to be “Brexit in name only”.

She said: “I would imagine our future relationship is not going to deviate very far from the Political Declaration which would essentially end up being Brexit in name only.”

The former MEP said Brexit depends on the Prime Minister’s Europe adviser David Frost standing his ground and how close the UK has to stick to the Political Declaration.

Ms Phillips added: “I think we are going to end up with a locking of horns, we already have got a locking of horns.

“And I don’t see Barnier and the EU remotely wanting to back down on any of this.

“So it depends on how firm we can stand and how strident David Frost is prepared to be.

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“But also most importantly it depends on the hold the Withdrawal Agreement places on adopting the Political Declaration.”

Ms Phillips’ comments come as little progress has been made in post-Brexit negotiations led by Mr Frost and his EU counterpart Mr Barnier.

The latest round of talks, which took place in Brussels, broke up on Friday.

Mr Barnier warned that striking a deal before the deadline currently appears “unlikely”.

But Mr Frost hit back and accused the EU of making negotiations “unnecessarily difficult” by trying to force Britain to sign up to the bloc’s state aid and fisheries rules before allowing further work in other areas.

In a statement, he said: “We have had useful discussions this week but there has been little progress.

“The EU is still insisting not only that we must accept continuity with EU state aid and fisheries policy, but also that this must be agreed before any further substantive work can be done in any other area of the negotiation, including on legal texts.

“This makes it unnecessarily difficult to make progress.

“There are other significant areas which remain to be resolved and, even where there is a broad understanding between negotiators, there is a lot of detail to work through. Time is short for both sides.”

The UK officially left the EU on January 31.

Britain is in a transition period with Brussels until the end of the year while the two sides attempt to thrash out a trade deal.

The next round of post-Brexit negotiations are in London in the week of September 7.

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