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Senior European sources said the Prime Minister’s “full frontal attack” on the Withdrawal Agreement with legislation published yesterday provided the clearest sign yet of his intention to quit the bloc without a pact. “They’re laughing at us. The constant references to the WTO is a signal ‘You can go to hell’,” a senior diplomatic source said. “My gut feeling is that the British government has opted for no deal.
“The EU will not walk away – we must be the grown ups in this.
“At this stage, we should be in the proverbial tunnel not fighting off British cavalry charges.”
The outburst came after the publication of the Government’s Internal Market Bill and an announcement that ministers would revert to World Trade Organisation rules for state aid at the end of the year.
The European Union’s most senior figures accused the Prime Minister of rowing back on the divorce deal signed with the bloc less than a year ago.
Another senior diplomat close to the talks said: “No effort was made to obscure the UK Government’s ability to deviate from the arrangements in the Ireland Protocol.
“It even explicitly spells out the possibility to do so. It also gives Ministers the power to derogate from national regulations in this context.”
The source added: “This was the absolute low point in the four years of negotiations by a country formerly known as the cradle of democracy.”
Lord Frost, the Prime Minister’s Brexit envoy, held “tense” negotiations in London yesterday with EU counterpart Michel Barnier.
In emergency talks in the Belgian capital, the Brussels negotiator was told to not walk away from talks despite the bloc’s anger with Mr Johnson’s plans to deviate from the Brexit deal.
European capitals also drew up a list of possible sanctions they could slap Britain with if the Government eventually reneges on the treaty.
An EU official said: “Talks will continue albeit in a tense atmosphere.
“It won’t be the EU walking away from the table, rest assured. Barnier will showcase himself as the one who wants a deal, which puts the UK in the position of those responsible for the mess.”
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Another official said that giving up on the negotiations on the future relationship between the bloc and Britain “would only play into the UK game”.
The Prime Minister hit back at the accusations, insisting his legislation was a “safety net” to protect the Good Friday Agreement and peace in Northern Ireland.
Mr Johnson said: “We need a legal safety net to protect our country against extreme or irrational interpretations of the protocol which could lead to a border down the Irish Sea in a way.
“That would be prejudicial to the interests of the Good Friday agreement and prejudicial to the interests of peace in our country.”
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The eighth round of negotiations are set to continue today between Lord Frost and Mr Barnier.
European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic has also made an emergency dash to London after demanding talks with Michael Gove.
The Brussels bureaucrat sits on the Brexit Joint Committee with the Cabinet Office minister.
They are tasked with negotiating the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement.
European sources suggested top eurocrats will use the showdown to raise an official complaint and start the official arbitration process.
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