Boris Johnson has warned he will walk away from the trade talks with Brussels in June if it is believed there is not enough progress to carry on with the negotiations.
The Prime Minister has dramatically increased the stakes in the upcoming trade discussions with the EU, signalling that he will bring forward the deadline for the talks by six months unless there is a “broad outline” of a deal.
The threat to call an end to the talks unless sufficient progress is made over the next three to four months is spelled out in the UK’s negotiating mandate, published on Thursday morning by the Government.
The text of the document states that it hopes to agree the "broad outline of an agreement" by the June meeting, which would be "rapidly finalised" by September.
"If that does not seem to be the case at the June meeting, the Government will need to decide whether the UK's attention should move away from negotiations and focus solely on continuing domestic preparations to exit the transition period in an orderly fashion."
Civil servants said the UK will begin preparations in June to leave the EU’s regulatory regime at the end of the year if it is thought there is no prospect of a free trade agreement.
According to the mandate, Britain will leave on a trading relationship that will “look similar to Australia’s”.
Australia does not currently have a free trade agreement with the EU, and instead relies on World Trade Organisation rules alongside a “mutual recognition agreement” for trading goods in certain industries.
Leaving by the end of the year
The Government has also committed to conducting research on the economic impact of the UK’s future relationship with the EU, stating it will launch a public consultation on the matter before Easter speaking to a “wide range of stakeholders”.
Announcing the plans, Chancellor of the Duchy Michael Gove told MPs: “Whatever the outcomes of these negotiations, the transition period will end at the end of this year.
"We're working closely with businesses and border groups on preparations for the end of the transition period, and I'll be meeting with representatives of our ports, freight and haulage sectors later today," he said.