UK

Barniers final snub! EU chief blasts UK on serious divergences

BREXIT talks broke up early with “significant differences” still remaining between the UK and EU, British negotiators said. Discussions on future trade relations were supposed to continue until today but both sides agreed to pull the plug yesterday.

Official David Frost said travelling to Brussels for the first face-to-face round with counterpart Michel Barnier since the coronavirus crisis had added “extra depth and flexibility” to the meetings. But significant hurdles still remain despite a desire to sign off a deal in the summer.

Mr Frost, the UKs chief negotiator, said: “We have completed our discussion of the full range of issues in the negotiation in just over three days.

“The negotiations have been comprehensive and useful. But they have also underlined the significant differences that still remain between us on a number of important issues.”

The UK and EU have repeatedly clashed during negotiations over fishing rights and so-called level-playing field demands that would keep Britain tied to Brussels rules.

M Barnier said that while Brussels had engaged “constructively”, officials needed to see an “equivalent engagement from the UK side”.

“Our goal was to get negotiations successfully and quickly on a trajectory to reach an agreement,” he said.

“However, after four days of discussions, serious divergences remain.”

He said the EU side had “listened carefully” to British concerns, but again made clear there could be no deal without agreements on fisheries and the “level playing” requiring the UK to follow EU standards in return for continued access to the single market.

“We will continue to insist on parallel progress on all areas,” M Barnier said.

“The EU expects, in turn, its positions to be better understood and respected in order to reach an agreement. We need an equivalent engagement by the United Kingdom.”

The timetable for talks was ratcheted up last month when Prime Minister Boris Johnson tried to inject new momentum into the process after the coronavirus crisis slowed down progress.

Mr Johnson has insisted he will walk away rather than allow discussions to drag on into the autumn, arguing that British businesses and citizens need certainty on the way forward before then.

If the two sides are unable to reach a deal by the end of the current Brexit transition period at the end of the year, Britain will leave the single market and the customs union and instead do business with the bloc using world trade rules.

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