Former WTO chief warns no deal Brexit Britain set to look like ‘football third division’

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Speaking to Euronews, the former Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Pascal Lamy, warned a no deal Brexit scenario forcing the UK to trade under WTO rules would make Britain look like a “third division football league” team. Mr Lamy claimed ending the negotiations without a formal agreement between the UK and Brussels will be “costly” for both sides, as EU leaders meet for crunch talks today.

He said: “WTO is not hell, it’s like the third division of the football league.

“It’s still football, but it’s not the second division and it’s not the first division, which the internal market is.

“So, there will be a cost for both sides.

“I think, at the end of the day, they should – and I’m speaking mostly to the Brexiteers – they should understand that this cost is not necessary.

“Why pay this cost?”

European Union leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday will pressure Britain for concessions in their troubled Brexit talks, saying a trillion euros worth of trade could be sunk if London does not budge on fisheries, fair competition and solving disputes.

Months of painstaking talks have narrowed the gaps on issues from energy ties to coordinating social benefits from 2021 when Britain’s standstill transition period after leaving the bloc ends.

But the three most contentious areas have barred a deal on a new partnership between the EU and Britain, with businesses and markets increasingly jittery about uncertain trading rules as the year-end deadline to put a deal in place nears.

“We have been making good progress but ‘good’ is not good enough,” an EU official said when asked if a deal was close. “We have not found a solution on the three issues that are very difficult… so we cannot say we are close to an agreement.”

The 27 EU national leaders are due to step up contingency plans for an abrupt economic split if no agreement emerges in time on trading with Britain without tariffs or quotas.

But, keen to avoid being assigned blame for an eventual chaotic split, the bloc would also grant extra time for more talks.

A German government source said the bloc would “continue the negotiations for as long as possible” and added: “The European Union will not be the ones getting up from the table.”

The EU says a deal must come in early November at the latest to allow enough time for ratification by the European Parliament and some national chambers before the year ends.

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In a call with top Brussels officials on the eve of the summit, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed disappointment at the scant progress so far and said he would decide whether to continue talks with the EU after the summit.

Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator has told Prime Minister Boris Johnson not to walk away from trade talks with the European Union because deals to cover security and fishing were possible over the next two weeks, The Times reported.

Mr Johnson’s final decision on staying at the table or walking away towards a no-deal exit will not be made before Friday, The Times said, and will depend on signals from Europe’s most powerful leaders.

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