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Brexit talks ‘disappointing’ say EU as UK admits ‘limited progress’ made on trade deal in latest round

Michel Barnier said progress this week had been 'disappointing' (PA)

3 min read

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has labelled the latest round of Brexit talks “disappointing” and said the UK “did not wish to commit seriously on a number of fundamental points”.

A spokesperson for the Government admitted there has only been “limited progress” after several days of negotiations conducted via video link due to coronavirus.

Mr Barnier singled out several areas, including fisheries, as causes for concern in the race to get a free trade agreement (FTA) signed off by the end of the year.

On that particular topic he said "no progress" has been made as Britain has "not put forward a legal text”.

But the UK government spokesperson said: “On fisheries, the EU's mandate appears to require us to accept a continuance of the current quotas agreed under the Common Fisheries Policy.  

“We will only be able to make progress here on the basis of the reality that the UK will have the right to control access to its waters at the end of this year.”

Mr Barnier, speaking at a press conference after the talks wound up, criticised the UK team, led by his counterpart David Frost, for having "failed to engage substantially" on the subject of the so-called ‘level playing field’ .

The government hit back, saying progress will only be made once the EU “drops its insistence on imposing conditions on the UK which are not found in the EU’s other trade agreements and which do not take account of the fact that we have left the EU as an independent state”.

One of the other areas where the "progress this week was disappointing”, according to Mr Barnier, was the role of the European Court of Justice in future disputes between the two sides, and he said overall governance of a future partnership sees them still "very far apart”.

Despite the slow progress the UK has repeatedly said it will not extend the transition period beyond December 31 this year under any circumstances.

There are currently two more week-long rounds of negotiations scheduled for 11 May and 1 June.

The government spokesperson said: “This was a full and constructive negotiating round, conducted remotely by video conference, and with a full range of discussions across all the issues, on the basis of the extensive legal texts provided by both sides in recent weeks.

“However, limited progress was made in bridging the gaps between us and the EU.”

There does appear to be movement in sectors like goods and services trade, energy, transport, and civil nuclear cooperation. 

But the spokesperson added: “We regret however that the detail of the EU’s offer on goods trade falls well short of recent precedent in FTAs it has agreed with other sovereign countries.

“This considerably reduces the practical value of the zero tariff zero quota aspiration we both share.

 “There are also significant differences of principle in other areas.”

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