Post-Brexit deal between United Kingdom and the European Union “seems unlikely” at this stage says EU Chief Barnier
A deal between the United Kingdom and the European Union “seems unlikely” at this stage, EU Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier has said today after another round of talks.
Speaking after the seventh and latest round of future relationship negotiations ended in deadlock like their predecessors.
In his press conference after the talks, Michel Barnier said that he was “disappointed” and “concerned” and his UK counterpart, David Frost spoke of little progress” amid differences on fisheries policy and state aid rules.
In his statement post press conference David Frost said:
“We have just concluded the seventh round of negotiations with the EU. As I said last week, agreement is still possible, and it is still our goal, but it is clear that it will not be easy to achieve. Substantive work continues to be necessary across a range of different areas of potential UK-EU future cooperation if we are to deliver it.
“We have had useful discussions this week but there has been little progress.
“The EU is still insisting not only that we must accept continuity with EU state aid and fisheries policy, but also that this must be agreed before any further substantive work can be done in any other area of the negotiation, including on legal texts. This makes it unnecessarily difficult to make progress. There are other significant areas which remain to be resolved and, even where there is a broad understanding between negotiators, there is a lot of detail to work through. Time is short for both sides.
“We have been clear from the outset about the principles underlying the UK approach. We are seeking a relationship which ensures we regain sovereign control of our own laws, borders, and waters, and centred upon a trading relationship based on an FTA like those the EU has concluded with a range of other international partners, together with practical arrangements for cooperation in areas such as aviation, scientific programmes, and law enforcement. When the EU accepts this reality in all areas of the negotiation, it will be much easier to make progress.
“We will continue to work hard to reach an agreement. Chief Negotiators and their teams have agreed to remain in close contact over the next two weeks before the next Round in London in the week of 7 September.”
The EU has said it would like to agree a deal by October so it can be approved by the European Parliament before the post-Brexit transition period expires.
The transition period ends on 31 December and, if a deal has not been secured by then, the UK would have to trade with the EU on WTO (World Trade Organization) terms.
This means most UK goods would be subject to tariffs until a free trade deal was ready to be brought in.
The UK has said it will not extend talks if an agreement cannot be reached by the December deadline.
A senior UK negotiating official added that a deal was “still possible but not that easy to get there”.
They also said it was “frustrating” that the EU “says Brexit means Brexit… yet they want us to continue with arrangements as though we were still [an EU] member”.
“Frustrating that they want us to move towards their position on fishing and state aid before doing anything else.”
Speaking at a press briefing in Brussels, Mr Barnier accused the UK side of “wasting valuable time”, suggesting the draft text was “useful” but downplaying its significance in reaching any agreement.
“Too often this week it felt as if we were going backwards more than forwards,” he said.
“Given the short time left, what I said in London in July remains true, today at this stage, an agreement between the UK and EU seems unlikely.”
While there had been progress on energy co-operation, participation in union programmes and anti-money laundering, on the subject of access to UK and EU fishing waters, there had been “no progress whatsoever”.
He also said the EU’s demand for a level-playing field – one of the other sticking points in negotiations – was “a non-negotiable pre-condition to grant access to our market of 450 million citizens”.
A level-playing field is a trade policy term for a set of common rules and standards that prevent businesses in one country undercutting their rivals and gaining a competitive advantage over those operating in other countries.
The EU has been insistent there should be a level-playing field for workers’ rights, environmental protection, taxation and state aid.
The next round of talks is due to begin on 07 September in London.