EU sees new Brexit talks ‘at an impasse’

Pedestrians walk past the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain. EPA-EFE/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA

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Negotiations between the European Union (EU) and ex-member Britain over new trade arrangements from next year are at an impasse due to disagreements and the coronavirus crisis, according to diplomats and officials in the bloc’s hub Brussels.

Halted when the epidemic started, the EU’s tortuous Brexit talks with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government were renewed a week ago but have quickly hit snags, the sources said.

“We are at an impasse,” said one diplomat following the negotiations aimed at agreeing new trading terms between Britain and the 27 member states of the bloc from 2021 when London’s current, status-quo transition period after Brexit ends.

“There are plenty of minor technical details where we could find solutions. But on the fundamental goals each side is trying to achieve – the differences are enormous. Things cannot move without a political push. And it’s missing.”

After last week’s talks, chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier warned that London had to budge to bridge gaps for a deal to be sealed in the little time available.

Johnson’s spokesman countered on Monday that the London team was ready to keep talking “but that doesn’t make us any more likely to agree to the EU’s proposals in areas where they are not taking into account the UK’s status as an independent state.”

“Clearly there will need to be political movement on the EU’s side to move negotiations forward, particularly on fisheries and level playing field issues in order to help find a balanced solution.”

More negotiations are due to take place by early June.

EU officials note there is still time for London and Brussels to meet a deadline at the end of that month to agree on extending negotiations beyond the end of the year.

Read more via Reuters

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