September 21, 2020

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Brexit: Trade talks yield little progress as EU, UK dig heels in

The UK was “refusing to engage in full conversation,” the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator has said at the end of what Michel Barnier described as a “disappointing” third round of talks.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, on Friday said the UK had not engaged in a “real conversation” on establishing a level playing field for trade and economic relations.

“On the governance of our future relations, the few useful discussions we had bore out only on sectoral issues, not a single framework of governance,” Barnier said. “We were disappointed with the lack of ambition on the UK side.”

The EU and UK’s top negotiators have been in talks for a new trade relationship slated to go into effect January 1, 2021. However, without a deal in place, the UK would crash out of the EU’s regulatory framework amounting to what many have described as a “hard Brexit.”

Sticking points remain on how each side view the trade relationship with the Europeans opting for closer cooperation while the British want favorable trade without strings attached. The deadlock continues over concerns of fair competition, access to fisheries and oversight from the European Court of Justice.

UK dismisses ‘ideological approach’

The UK’s chief EU negotiator David Frost echoed similar sentiments about talks, saying the latest round resulted in “very little progress.”

1Britain last year agreed to accept a set of principles known as the “level playing field” to ensure fair competition in a political declaration that accompanied the Brexit withdrawal agreement. However, Frost said the EU’s insistence that the UK respect this was “ideological.”

“It is hard to understand why the EU insists on an ideological approach which make it more difficult to reach a mutually beneficial agreement,” said Frost.

“The major obstacle to [progress] 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,” said Frost. “As soon as the EU recognizes that we will not conclude an agreement on that basis, we will be able to make progress.”

The EU has pushed for an agreement to be finalized by October in order to give the bloc’s remaining 27 member states ample time to ratify the accord.

Experts believe a lean trade deal could be put in place to avert chaos, with additional phases allowed for negotiations on more contentious areas. Such a deal would effectively keep the UK partly within the EU’s regulatory framework until a more extensive accord is reached.

ls/rt (Reuters, dpa)

(DW)