Boris Johnson’s chief negotiator David Frost was not satisfied with the proposals put forward by his EU counterpart and has warned that Brussels must move further before the trade talks can resume.
Lord Frost said Michel Barnier’s proposal today to intensify the negotiations and work on a legal text setting out the terms of a deal was not good reasons enough for new negotiations to resume, with Downing street insisting that talks between Lord Frost and his EU counterpart were constructive, but insisted there must be a fundamental change in approach from the EU.
“The UK has noted the EU’s proposal to genuinely intensify talks, which is what would be expected at this stage in a negotiation. However, the UK continues to believe there is no basis to resume talks unless there is a fundamental change of approach from the EU.
“This means an EU approach consistent with trying to find an agreement between sovereign equals and with an acceptance that movement needs to come from the EU side as well as the UK. The two teams agreed to remain in close touch,” said a No 10 spokesperson.
An insider from Brussels hinted that Mr Barnier was asked to compromise amid fears further delays in the wrangling over trade negotiation could course as both sides are running out of time.
The soft pedal follows a telephone call with UK lead negotiator Lord Frost.
The European Union still believes it’s important to resume negotiations in London this week if they are to reach a deal before the end of the Brexit transition period by the end of this year.
“We don’t have the luxury to have this thing dragging on, we should get back to the substance as soon as possible,” a source said.
And European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic, who met Mr Gove in London on Monday for a meeting of the Brexit Joint Committee, said the bloc was ready to work on a “good agreement for both parties”.
“It has to be a fair agreement for both sides – we are not going to sign an agreement at any cost. The European Union is ready to work until the last minute for a good agreement for both parties,” he said.
The UK government has warned that if no deal is reached by the end of December 31 when the current transition arrangements end, Britain will not return to the negotiating with the EU in 2021.
Michael Gove warned only a “fundamental change” in approach from the bloc would get the talks “back on track” while stressing that Downing Street is still absolutely committed to talks with the EU so as to secure an agreement on future relations but not at any cost.
He said, “Come what may, on December 31 we will take back control” while telling MPs that the proposals brought forward by the EU in recent weeks as compromises are “not consistent” with the UK’s status as an independent nation.
He said, “We recognise that there will be some turbulence, but we’ve not come so far to falter now when we are so close to reclaiming our sovereignty. We have to be in control of our own borders, our fishing, we have to set our own laws.
“We have to be free to thrive as an independent free-trading nation embracing the freedoms that follow as a result.”