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Thu, 24 September 2020

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Michel Barnier insists Brexit deal still ‘possible‘ as he signals ‘flexibility’ on key sticking points

Michel Barnier insists Brexit deal still ‘possible‘ as he signals ‘flexibility’ on key sticking points

The UK’s chief negotiator David Frost with his EU equivalent Michel Barnier. (Image: PA)

2 min read

A post-Brexit deal between Britain and the European Union is “still possible”, the bloc’s chief negotiator has said, as he signalled a “margin of flexibility” on key sticking points in the talks.

Mr Barnier told an online seminar on Wednesday that his team was willing to work on a “credible and operational” framework on the level playing field commitments the EU has demanded in a deal.

The bloc wants Britain to agree close alignment between the two sides’ rules on state-aid, the environment and employment rights in exchange for high access to its single market.

But Britain has argued that similar conditions have not been imposed in EU trade deals with countries like Canada or Japan.

Mr Barnier said of the row: “We are ready on this point, as well as on the fishing issue, governance, and some other issues where we are divergent, we are ready to work on landing zones respecting the mandate of the EU.”

And he added: “We are ready to work on operational and clever compromise but not at the price, never at the price, of any unravelling of the single market. Never.”

The chief negotiator warned: “The level playing field is not for sale. It is a core part of the our trade model and we refuse to compromise to benefit the British economy.”

The comments came ahead of an “intensified” round of talks between the two sides, who are also at loggerheads over access to Britain’s fishing waters as well the role of European institutions in governing any deal.

UK officials have signalled that Britain could be willing to allow Brussels to impose tariffs in areas where it deviates from the bloc’s common standards.

Boris Johnson has said he believes a deal can be reached by the end of July, although the EU is aiming for an October deadline. 

Britain has opted not to ask for the transition period — which currently keeps it closely aligned to the EU and expires at the end of this year — to be extended, meaning the two sides must agree a deal by the end of this year.

“The ball is in the UK’s court,” Mr Barnier said. “I believe that the deal is still possible.”

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