EU, UK Trade Accusations as Post-Brexit Trade Talks Stalemate before Deadline Round
Common standards, the jurisdiction of the EU’s top court, and fisheries remain major bones of contention.
The EU and UK have completed the next to last round of talks for their post-Brexit trade relationship in a stalemate, with each side the lack of progress on the other.
After more than 3.5 years of uncertainty, Britain finally left the EU on January 31, 2020.
The EU and the UK have until the end of the year to reach an agreement on new setup for their relationship.
However, they now have only one round of talks left before the deadline set for the end of June in their Withdrawal Agreement on whether talks for a special post-Brexit relationship are even worth pursuing.
Both sides urged the other to tangibly change its respective strategy as their latest round demonstrated a stalemate on Friday, after a week-long series of videoconferences, AFP reported, as cited by France24.
The negotions remain hindered by the same issues as when they were launched in March, just ahead of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Friday, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier once again accused the British side of seeking to keep the benefits of access to the Union’s single market without assuming any responsibilities.
He made it clear he was “disappointed” by what he described as a lack of ambition on part of Britain.
“No progress has been possible on the more difficult subjects,” Barnier said, even though the UK had provided suggested texts in many areas of disagreement.
While Britain insists it wants a trade deal similar to the ones the EU has with Canada or Japan, the EU negotiator maintains that London is actually seeking something much greater.
“The United Kingdom has not engaged in a real discussion on the level-playing field, whatever it says,” Barnier said.
Barnier’s UK counterpart David Frost also agreed that little progress had been made but not more than that.
“It is hard to understand why the EU insists on an ideological approach which makes it more difficult to reach a mutually beneficial agreement,” Frost said after the talks.
“We very much need a change in EU approach for the next round beginning on June 1,” he added.
“We’re treading water.. There really is no progress and tempers picked up a bit more this session,” one European source close to discussions is quoted as saying.
The EU insists any deal must include UK assurances on maintaining EU standards on health, safety, state aid and the environment, a notion referred to as keeping “level playing field”, but those demand are resisted by London.
“As soon as the EU recognises that we will not conclude an agreement on that basis we will be able to make progress,” Frost said.
Britain also rejects the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and the European Convention of Human Rights.
Both Frost and Barnier, however, said there were “useful discussions” on another bone of contention – fisheries – even if the two sides are still far from reaching an agreement.
(Banner image: European Commission audio-visual service)