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Ivan Rogers, former UK ambassador to the EU, said it would not be plain sailing from here as Britain plots its next steps free from the shackles from the bureaucratic Union. He predicted chaos would ensue as Britain prepares to break free and diverge from EU rules.
Mr Rogers told Politico.eu: “There are lots of forces driving a gradual divergence.
“The question is, is that divergence governable and relatively smooth and reasonably amicable whilst we remain close friends, or does it become bumpy, difficult, conflictual, or maybe worse than conflictual – constantly flaring up into trade wars as people bite chunks out of each other?
“The UK will think very little indeed about the European reactions to these things until they’re hit in the face with the European reaction to these things.”
He warned the Union could also behave in the same way.
However, a Downing Street spokesman played down fears of conflict, saying the UK still wanted to maintain a “close relationship” with the EU.
The official said: “We’ve always been clear that just because we’re leaving the EU doesn’t mean we don’t want a close relationship with them.
“We will still have a lot of shared values and history. There is still a huge amount of work we can do with each other.
“There is definitely no strategy to be antagonistic.”
But Mr Rogers hit back, saying the UK would not be interested in taking part in summits with the EU.
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He said: “Do you really think the British prime minister would want to spend two or three hours in a rather formal setting with the president of the Council, the president of the Commission, mostly reading out each other’s speaking notes to each other?
“I don’t think so.”
The UK left the EU in January and the two sides are trying to clinch a deal that would govern trade once a status quo transition period ends on December 1.
But the clock is ticking and the talks are now likely to go beyond yet another Brexit deadline – this time November 15 – though negotiators are racing to clinch a deal with enough to ratify it before the end of the year.
The main stumbling blocks between the UK and EU are thought to include the “level playing field” measures aimed at preventing unfair competition on issues including state subsidies, the ongoing row over fishing rights and how any UK-EU deal will be governed.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he remained hopeful that a deal can be reached with the EU despite concerns about a lack of time.
The EU’s lead negotiator Michel Barnier has been in London for talks which are set to continue on Thursday.
Mr Johnson said: “There is a deal there to be done and we’re keen to do it but it depends on our friends and partners understanding where we need to get to.
“But either way, we’re going to be ready for whatever the outcome is. This country is full of plans and full of resilience and we’ll have a good way forward.”
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