“Significant” disagreements remain in UK-EU trade negotiations
The UK and EU have both said that significant differences remain in negotiations over a post-Brexit free-trade agreement, after the latest round of talks took place face-to-face in Brussels this week.
The UK’s chief negotiator David Frost said that there were still “significant” disagreements on “a number of important issues” including fisheries.
Meanwhile, Frost’s EU counterpart Michel Barnier told reporters that Brussels’ position in negotiations must be “better understood and respected” for a deal to be reached.
The deadline for implementing an extension to the post-Brexit transition period beyond 2020 has now lapsed, meaning both sides have until the end of December to sign off on a deal.
After negotiations had continued electronically throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, this week’s face-to-face talks added an “extra depth and flexibility” to discussions, according to Frost.
A further five weeks of face-to-face talks are planned to take place throughout July and early August, after both sides agreed on a need to “intensify” the negotiations and add a new impetus in June.
Following the latest round of negotiations, Frost said: “They [the talks] have underlined the significant differences that still remain between us on a number of important issues.
"We remain committed to working hard to find an early understanding on the principles underlying an agreement."
Barnier remains optimistic that an agreement is attainable, but warned that “serious divergences remain” in the negotiating positions of both parties.
He said: "The EU engaged constructively, as we had already done during the fourth round of negotiations in June. The EU expects, in turn, its positions to be better understood and respected in order to reach an agreement.
"We need an equivalent engagement by the United Kingdom."
Barnier went on to explain that the EU would not sanction a deal without having “robust” guarantees on the so-called “level playing field” issue regarding fair competition, including in the realm of state aid. The UK remains bound to the existing EU rules on state aid until the transition period lapses in December but has not yet revealed its post-Brexit plans for this matter.
Barnier added that the EU also wants parallel progress in all negotiating areas, something which the UK does not favour.
The UK’s aim is to negotiate separate agreements on certain issues such as fisheries, rather than agreeing to an all-encompassing deal which the EU is pursuing.
On the issue of fisheries, the EU wants continued access to British waters, while the UK wishes to hold annual quota talks over access, like the relationship the bloc currently has with non-member states such as Norway.