The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator said on Thursday that the United Kingdom had shown no willingness to break deadlock on the level playing field and fisheries issues, making sealing a new trade agreement unlikely.
“By its current refusal to commit to conditions of open and fair competition and to a balanced agreement on fisheries, the UK makes a trade agreement – at this point – unlikely,” Michel Barnier said.
He added that as long as London’s position on these two core matters does not shift, there was a risk of failure of negotiations and a damaging no-deal split between Britain and the 27-nation bloc at the end of this year.
Speaking after this week’s round of negotiations in London, Barnier said there had been no progress at all on the question of ensuring fairness on state aid.
“The time for answers is quickly running out,” he told a news conference in London, referring to the five months left before the end of Britain’s transition period since it formally left the EU at the end of January.
“If we do not reach an agreement on our future partnership, there will be more friction.”
However, these views were not shared by David Frost, Britain’s chief negotiator. He insisted that an agreement with the European Union can still be reached in September, even after the latest round of talks on a future relationship ended with “substantial areas of disagreement”.
The UK official said that any “early understanding on the principles underlying any agreement” would not be reached in July, with the two sides unable to breach the gap over fair competition and fisheries.
“Despite all the difficulties, on the basis of the work we have done in July, my assessment is that agreement can still be reached in September, and that we should continue to negotiate with this aim in mind,” he added.