Britain demands ‘change in EU approach’ as ‘tetchy’ talks round ends with ‘very little progress’
David Frost warned that there needed to be a “change in EU approach” (PA)
UK chief negotiator David Frost has hit out at the EU’s “ideological approach” as he warned there had been “very little progress” in the latest post-Brexit trade talks.
In a statement following the conclusion of the third round of negotiations, Mr Frost also hinted the UK may walk out of future talks if there is not a “constructive process”.
And he warned that there needed to be a “change in EU approach” before the next round of discussions starts on 1 June.
Major sticking points between the UK and the bloc included the EU’s focus on a “so-called ‘level playing field’” as well as fishing rights in British waters, the chief negotiator claimed.
Mr Frost said: “We have just completed our third negotiating round with the EU, once again by video conference. I would like to thank Michel Barnier and the negotiating teams on both sides for their determination in making the talks work in these difficult circumstances.
“I regret however that we made very little progress towards agreement on the most significant outstanding issues between us.
He continued: “The major obstacle to this is the EU’s insistence on including a set of novel and unbalanced proposals on the so-called “level playing field” which would bind this country to EU law or standards, or determine our domestic legal regimes, in a way that is unprecedented in Free Trade Agreements and not envisaged in the Political Declaration.
“As soon as the EU recognises that we will not conclude an agreement on that basis, we will be able to make progress."
BARNIER: WE ARE NOT GOING TO BARGAIN AWAY OUR VALUES
Speaking after the conclusion of the talks, Mr Frost's European counterpart Michel Barnier described progress as "disappointing".
He added: "We’re not going to bargain away our values for the benefit of the British economy."
And he warned that the two sides still have "very divergent" positions on the issues of fisheries while there was no "real discussion" on level playing field provisions.
Meanwhile, a senior UK official close to the negotations added that while the talks had been "constructive at times" they had also been "frankly a bit tetchy at times, as you would expect at this stage".
They added: "Tetchiness can be a sign of diffuclty but it can also be a sign that you are beginning to get to grips with it and understand and we have seen some signs of that in this round."
And the official said while they were still "optimistic" a deal could be struck, there was still "fundamental difficulties" between the two sides
They said: "They problem continues to be that the EU thinks they are going to get a half-way house between what we are willing to see on so-called level-playing field and what they are willing to see.
"What we are willing to live with on fisheries and what they are willing to see. "
"As we have tried to make clear from the start there is not a half-way house. We can't split the difference between areas where we control our own laws and waters and areas where we don't.
"That is the fundamental difficulty that the EU has not yet accepted."
They added: "We've got the highest respect for Michel Barnier.
"He is doing a very difficult job very well with a mandate he must know that in some areas is unnegotiable with us."