EU lead negotiator Michel Barnier has warned European Union leaders to brace for a Brexit showdown with the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to get talks over a trade deal with Britain back on track.
Mr Barnier advised them to lobby Mr Johnson to drop his negotiating red lines in a final bid to end a long track of trade deal deadlock. In a private briefing to European capitals, the Frenchman hinted his efforts to broker a free-trade agreement are on the verge of failure because he cannot convince David Frost to move closer to the bloc’s demands for a regulatory level-playing field and access to Britain’s fishing waters for EU fishing business.
Mr Barnier, however, advised the member state diplomats that they should also be ready to re-evaluate his hardline negotiating guidelines if both the EU and The UK cannot overcome their differences in the weeks ahead.
SurgeZirc UK has learned that one EU figure said, “Barnier is ringing capitals to update us on the lack of progress. When leaders will be involved depends on how things develop across the next few weeks, but it’s difficult to be optimistic at the moment.”
The EU lead negotiator is believing that political force will be needed to break the stalled talks if progress is not made in the next phase of the trade deal negotiation starting 7 September. Some EU sources wrote: “He thinks we’re coming to the end of the road and have gone as far as we can without serious political decisions made at the top level.”
Another EU figure said: “Pretty soon either some political things have to happen or we are simply heading towards no deal, by accident, or political will.”
Also, note that some EU officials have made peace with the possibilities of a no-deal Brexit as trade deal talks have remained stalled over the past months. Member states, led by France, have previously rejected attempts by Mr Barnier to water down his demands for existing Brussels rules on fishing.
Following last week’s seventh round of negotiations failure, Mr Barnier accused British negotiators of “wasting valuable time” as he was banking on the Prime Minister’s lead negotiator to offer a series of concessions on fishing and state subsidies to strike a deal.
Meanwhile, Mr Frost has blamed the failure to reach a deal agreement on Mr Barnier who refused to begin drafting a joint legal text for the future relationship. With how Brussels sources are now more pessimistic than they were a deal can be reached before the end of Britain’s post-Brexit transition in December.
EU authorities bemoaned a “completely wasted summer”, claiming that Mr Johnson’s move to outflank the bloc’s negotiators have failed woefully.
“We have had a whole summer completely wasted, a cabinet that doesn’t understand how negotiations work, a prime minister who, I think doesn’t understand how the negotiations work – because he is under the wrong impression that he can pull off negotiating at the eleventh hour,” a top EU personality lashed out.
Attitudes towards the UK are said to be hardening in the final months of the trade talks, with influential leaders, such as France’s Emmanuel Macron, unwilling to offer serious concessions to Britain.