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“Very little progress” in Brexit talks

3 min read
15 May 2020 | UK NEWS

Britain’s Chief Negotiator in the post-Brexit trade talks with the EU, David Frost, has said very little progress has been made between the two sides. Mr Frost made the remarks after UK concluded a third round of talks with the European Union regarding a post-Brexit trade deal today.

Frost claimed that the primary obstacle preventing a trade agreement was the EU’s position on a level playing field, calling their proposal “novel and unbalanced”. He also believes that the EU has come up with “an ideological approach” to negotiations on fishing rights. He said: “I regret, however, that we made very little progress towards agreement on the most significant outstanding issues between us.

“It is very clear that a standard Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, with other key agreements on issues like law enforcement, civil nuclear, and aviation alongside, all in line with the Political Declaration, could be agreed without major difficulties in the time available.”

He continued: “The major obstacle to this is the EU’s insistence on including a set of novel and unbalanced proposals on the so-called ‘level playing field’, which would bind this country to EU law or standards, or determine our domestic legal regimes, in a way that is unprecedented in Free Trade Agreements and not envisaged in the Political Declaration. As soon as the EU recognises that we will not conclude an agreement on that basis, we will be able to make progress.

“Although we have had useful discussions on fisheries on the basis of our draft legal text, the EU continues to insist on fisheries arrangements and access to UK fishing waters in a way that is incompatible with our future status as an independent coastal state. We are fully committed to agreeing fishing provisions in line with the Political Declaration, but we cannot agree arrangements that are manifestly unbalanced and against the interests of the UK fishing industry.

“It is hard to understand why the EU insists on an ideological approach which makes it more difficult to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. We very much need a change in EU approach for the next round beginning on June 1.

“In order to facilitate those discussions, we intend to make public all the UK draft legal texts during next week, so that the EU’s member states and interested observers can see our approach in detail. The UK will continue to work hard to find an agreement, for as long as there is a constructive process in being, and continues to believe that this is possible.”

After the previous round of negotiations, the EU’s Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier, had dubbed the UK’s approach as “disappointing” and reminded the negotiating teams that “the clock [was] ticking”. He also accused the UK of not wanting to commit on several issues. This time round, he called today’s results “very disappointing” (our emphasis).

Mr Barnier said today: “Every time we meet they say they would be happy to have a Canada-style agreement, but at the same time … they ask for far more from us than is available under the Canadian model. We are not going to bargain away our European values to the benefit of the British economy.”

He added: “Economic and trading fair play is not for sale. It is not ‘a nice to have’, it is ‘a must have’. Even if we are to get rid of 98%, 99% of tariffs and not 100% that we are proposing … we will require the same strong guarantees of a level playing field.”

The UK and the EU currently have six weeks remaining before any decision on extending the current transition period beyond the end of this year would need to be taken.  If it were, it would have to be mutually agreed by both parties.  However, the UK Government has already announced several times that it has no intention of requesting an extension, and would refuse a request from the EU for one.

There is a summit scheduled in mid-June between the UK Prime Minister and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, which is seen by some as perhaps the last remaining opportunity to resolve the impasse.

We will bring you further developments on the progress of the EU negotiations as they continue.

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