Boris Johnson suggested there was still hope of a post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union but the two sides remained “very far apart”.
Following talks between the Prime Minister and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, the negotiations will continue, with both leaders agreeing to “go the extra mile” in search of a deal.
Mr Johnson said the UK would not be walking away from the negotiating table and “where there is life, there is hope” but a no-deal outcome was still the most likely scenario.
In his Sky interview, Johnson warned that no deal is still more likely. And he said that his suggestion to talk to other EU leaders has been rejected by the EU. He said:
“The UK certainly won’t be walking away from the talks. I think people will expect us to go the extra mile. I repeated my offer, which is if it’s necessary to talk to other capitals, then I’m very happy to do that. The commission is very determined to keep the negotiations on the way that they be done between us and the commission and that’s fine.
“But I’m going to repeat the most likely thing now is of course that we have to get ready for WTO terms, Australia terms. And don’t forget, everybody, we’ve made huge preparations for this we’ve been at this for four and a half years … perhaps more intensively in the last couple of years than previously. But anyway, we’ve got ready. And anybody who needs to know what to do get on to gov.uk/transition, see what needs to be done and get ready for 1 January. Either way, whatever happens, the UK will do very, very well.”
“No deal would be terrible. So continuing the talks is good news,” tweeted former cabinet minister Damian Green, who didn’t seem to share Johnson’s enthusiasm.
However another Tory, John Redwood, had a very different perspective, which illustrates the schism within the party
He Tweeted: “A long complex legal Agreement that locks the UK back into many features of the EU that hinder us is not the Christmas present the UK needs.”
The agreement to continue talking beyond the Sunday deadline set by Mr Johnson and Mrs von der Leyen does indicate that some compromise is possible.
Mr Johnson spoke to Mrs von der Leyen for around 20 minutes in a call described by sources as “perfectly cordial”.
The pair agreed to “keep going for as long as they still think a deal is possible”, a source said.
A joint statement issued by the two leaders said: “Our negotiating teams have been working day and night over recent days.
“And despite the exhaustion after almost a year of negotiations, despite the fact that deadlines have been missed over and over we think it is responsible at this point to go the extra mile.”
The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has said that everything should be done to reach a trade deal. “Every opportunity to reach a deal is highly welcome,” she said at a news conference in Berlin.