UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s lead negotiator David Frost after meeting his Brussels counterpart Michel Barnier one-on-one in London yesterday in an attempt to strike off the deadlock in the fight over a post-Brexit UK-EU trade deal warned that EU stubbornness is increasing the chances of a no-deal Brexit.
Both lead negotiators fought over the agenda for the next round of formal talks, with Frost admitting that a UK-EU trade deal “will not be easy to achieve” because of the bloc’s intransigence. He also pointed out that the EU representatives are insisting in a row over rules for state subsidies to private firms and refusing to allow any other issues to be discussed.
Ahead of the meeting between the UK-EU reps, Mr Johnson’s spokesperson said, “An agreement is still possible and is our goal but it is clear it will not be easy to achieve.
“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 work can be done in any other area of the negotiations including on legal texts making it very difficult to make progress. We will continue to work hard to reach an agreement and look forward to the next round taking place next week.”
He also said that Mr Barnier’s tactics had left the negotiations stuck.
“The EU continues to insist that we must agree on difficult areas in the negotiations such as EU state aid before any further work can be done in any other area in the negotiation including on legal texts. That makes it very difficult to make progress.
“We would instead like to settle the simplest issues first in order to build momentum in the talks as time is short for both sides. We will continue to work hard to reach agreement and look forward to the next round taking place next week,” he said. “We would instead like to settle the simplest issues first in order to build momentum in the talks as time is short for both sides,” he added.
Mr Frost assures that the UK Prime Minister will not allow Brussels to dictate the rules for the UK Government’s industrial policies.
“We’ll set out further detail of our domestic regime in due course. After the transition period, the UK will have its own regime of subsidy control and will not be subject to the EU’s state aid regime. We’ve been very clear about that throughout. The UK’s future subsidy arrangements are a matter for the British people and Parliament, not the EU.”
However, France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune was pessimistic yesterday about the chances of a trade deal.
“Things are not progressing very well. The United Kingdom wants to leave the European Union and should therefore no longer have access to the European market. We cannot have access to the European market without respecting the sanitary, environmental rules of the community. No deal is a risk,” Mr Beaune said.
Meanwhile, a German government minister advised the EU to refuse any deal with the UK that failed to guarantee access to British coastal waters for European fishing vessels.
Angela Merkel’s European affairs minister Michael Roth while addressing the European Parliament said, “We do understand that the UK wants certain advantages for its own fishermen, for its own fisheries industry.
“But, common resources need to be managed together in a sustainable way, which means we cannot accept that the UK would exclude EU fisheries efforts from its territorial waters altogether. We fear we might be running out of time to some extent.
“No progress has been made for quite some time and we observe that the UK is now moving away from what we had agreed on a long time ago as the basis for the negotiations. Now that doesn’t mean the EU is changing its stance,” he added.