EU’s Barnier Accuses U.K. of Backtracking as Talks Hit Stalemate
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European Union Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier accused the U.K. of backtracking on commitments it made when it left the bloc as he warned this week’s talks over their future relationship had made no progress.
“There has been no significant progress since the start of these talks,” Barnier told reporters in Brussels on Friday after the conclusion of the final week of negotiations before Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets top EU officials. “In all areas, the U.K. continues to backtrack on the commitments is had undertaken in the political declaration.”
The U.K. side was more positive, with chief negotiator David Frost saying that although progress was limited, talks had been “positive” and “we remain committed to a successful outcome.”
With both sides saying they will continue talks over the summer, it will now be up to political leaders to provide fresh impetus. Johnson is scheduled to meet European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen later this month. The end of June marks the deadline for the U.K. to ask to extend the negotiating period beyond the year-end, something the prime minister has repeatedly ruled out doing.
If Johnson and von der Leyen can have a constructive meeting, they will trigger intensive work between the U.K. and EU over the coming months, although no further rounds of negotiations have yet been scheduled.
“In the course of the summer, the very beginning of autumn, we will find some common ground between the EU and U.K.” as long as Britain doesn’t backtrack on its commitments, Barnier said.
Both sides had hoped to make significant steps forward this week but were thwarted by deep disagreements on the most crucial issues: fishing rights, a level playing field for business, and the role of European judges in overseeing any deal.
Despite an intense focus this week on fishing, a discussion officials wanted to wrap up by the end of this month, there is still huge disagreement. The British are pressing for the EU to back down from its demand to maintain the status quo, which benefits countries like France and Spain. Instead, the U.K. wants to grant access through annual negotiations. The EU says there can be no overall trade deal without an agreement on the issue.
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