Nigel Farage concedes Brexiteers must prepare to make concessions ahead of trade talks

Brexit Party leader also rejects suggestions he denied Tories a three-figure Commons majority

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Saturday 28 December 2019 16:36
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Nigel Farage concedes Brexiteers must prepare to make concessions ahead of trade talks

Nigel Farage has conceded Brexiteers must be prepared to make concessions ahead of crucial talks between the UK and the European Union over their future relationship.

The Brexit Party leader, who failed to win a single seat at the general election, also rejected suggestions that he denied Boris Johnson’s Conservatives a triple-figure majority by standing candidates in Labour areas.

His comments on LBC radio come as the prime minister’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill is expected to pass through all its parliamentary stages when the House of Commons returns after the Christmas recess.

Given Mr Johnson’s resounding victory at the general election, the government is now preparing to legally sever ties with the EU on 31 January. The next phase of the negotiations – on the future relationship between the UK and the bloc – is expected to begin the following month.

But Mr Farage insisted the prime minister must still be prepared to walk away from the talks if he is unable to secure favourable trading terms from Brussels by the transition period deadline of December 2020.

“I think for the first time we’ve potentially got the upper hand in these negotiations,” Mr Farage said.

Asked for the probability of a no-deal Brexit happening at the end of the process, the party leader replied: “I would still think that it’s 25 per cent – it’s no more than that.”

He continued: “I think some sort of deal will be cobbled together and as a Brexiteer I know I’m not going to get everything I want. That’s just not possible, there are going to be all sorts of compromises on fishing, I’m sure etc.

“But have we turned a corner? Are we heading to the right place? Yes.”

But the comments from Mr Farage also come just days after the new European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, said an extension to the negotiating period over the future relationship may need to be agreed.

“I am very concerned about how little time we have,” she told the French newspaper Les Echos. “It seems to me that, on both sides, we should seriously consider whether the negotiations are feasible in such a short time.

“I think it would be reasonable to take stock in the middle of the year and, if necessary, agree on an extension to the transition period.”

Pressed on the decision to stand Brexit Party candidates in areas where the Tories were challenging Labour incumbents, Mr Farage also rejected suggestions from “idiots” that by doing so he had stopped Mr Johnson from winning a triple-figure majority at the election.

He said: “If I’d stood against them in the south and southwest of England, we probably would have had a hung parliament, but we didn’t do that as it wouldn’t have been the right thing to do.”

“Most of those people who voted for Boris in those northern seats had voted for me in the May elections,” he added. “We were the gateway. Once you’ve broken the tribal habit of voting it becomes easier to move on.”

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