Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, has lamented that there has been ‘no significant progress in talks’ at the end of the fourth round of negotiations on the future EU-UK relationship. He went further saying:
“Our lack of progress is not due to the method, but to the substance. We must stick to our commitments if we want to move forward.”
He slammed what he said was UK ‘backtracking’ on the political declaration, and added, “We demand the full respect of the Withdrawal Agreement”.
Regarding cooperation between the EU and UK on foreign policy, development and defence, Barnier claimed the UK still did not want to talk about such issues, adding “I still don’t understand why”.
The EU’s chief negotiator was giving an update on negotiations on the bloc’s future relationship with the UK. Sticking points remain over difficult topics such as fishing rights, and the level-playing field.
Barnier’s UK counterpart David Frost released a statement, saying that progress had been “limited” and the remote format meant “we are close to reaching the limits of what we can achieve”.
Both sides are struggling to make headway with only months to go before the post-Brexit transition period — which keeps most arrangements from the UK’s EU membership in place — expires at the end of the year. The UK rejects any extension, and a decision on this would need to be taken by the end of this month.
According to Barrie Deas, chief executive of the UK National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, the previous agreement on fisheries (when the UK joined what was the EEC in the 1970s) meant that ‘EU fleets fish about six times as much in UK waters as UK vessels fish in EU waters. This is why the issue has become such a flashpoint in talks.
“The EU position would really require capitulation by the UK on the issue of fisheries and that’s just not going to happen,” says Deas.
“This is an asymmetrical relationship which benefits the EU fleets. And quite surprisingly, they want to cling on to that. They want the status quo, the UK needs to change their arrangements. The current mandate that the EU has is status quo or nothing. There doesn’t seem to be room for compromise in that.”
While Barnier said that talks could not ‘continue like this eternally’, he explained the remaining time must be used ‘in the best way possible’. He offered to enter into more intense discussions over the most difficult issues with his British counterpart David Frost.
It comes after the EU and UK completed a new set of talks on a possible post-Brexit trade agreement.
After the third round of negotiations in May, Barnier voiced his disappointment in what he said was the UK’s lack of ambition in negotiations. He added that the UK had not got into “real discussion” on the level-playing field.
In the meantime, a June 30 deadline for significant progress is looming and key arguments remain unresolved.__EuroNews