EU calls on UK to 'make the necessary moves' for trade deal

15 October 2020, 20:26

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, speaks with Belgium's Prime Minister Alexander De Croo
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, speaks with Belgium's Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

The UK said it is "disappointed" with the outcome of a European Union summit in which the bloc signalled it was willing to continue trade negotiations but called on Britain to make the next move.

Lord Frost, the Prime Minister's Europe sherpa, said the trade talk response from the European Council was "unusual".

In a text adopted by the summit of EU leaders, they "invited" Brussels' chief negotiator Michel Barnier to continue his discussions while urging the UK to "make the necessary moves to make an agreement possible".

Lord Frost tweeted: "Disappointed by the European Council conclusions on UK/EU negotiations.

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"(I'm) surprised the EU is no longer committed to working 'intensively' to reach a future partnership as agreed with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on October 3.

"Also surprised by the suggestion that to get an agreement all future moves must come from the UK.

"It's an unusual approach to conducting a negotiation."

He announced that Mr Johnson on Friday would "set out UK reactions and approach" on whether or not to continue talking.

The Prime Minister last month proposed that both sides should walk away from the trade talks and prepare for a no-deal outcome if there was no agreement by October 15 so they could be ready for any fallout when the transition period ends at the end of December.

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In his call with Ms von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel, Mr Johnson expressed "disappointment" that the talks had not made more progress.

However, there is scepticism in Brussels that Downing Street would be prepared to pull the plug on the negotiations.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said: "Britain has already imposed so many deadlines that came and went."

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Meanwhile, Mr Michel told a press conference that Brussels would decide in the coming days, based on the UK's next proposals, whether it should continue with trade talks.

"We are clear that we are determined to negotiate, we are determined to reach an agreement but we know there are some difficult topics," he said.

"It is the case for fisheries, certainly, and also for level playing field and also governance.

"We are united and we will make an assessment in the next days, we will see if it is possible to complete a negotiation, what will be the country's (the UK's) proposal and based on that we will make an assessment."

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said at the press conference his team were determined to reach a "fair deal".

"We will do everything we can but not at any price. My team and I will continue intensive discussions over the coming weeks," he said.

Starmer: It's in the national interest to have a Brexit deal

All sides have acknowledged that the question of future fishing rights once the current Brexit transition period ends remains among the most difficult issues to be resolved.

Mr Macron, who is under pressure from French fishermen who fear losing access to British waters, indicated that he was prepared to take a hard line.

"Under any circumstance, our fishermen should not be sacrificed for Brexit," he said.

"If these conditions are not met, it's possible we won't have a deal. If the right terms can't be found at the end of these discussions, we're ready for a no-deal for our future relations."

Irish premier Micheal Martin also emphasised the importance of securing a satisfactory agreement on fishing if there was to be an overall trade deal.

Meanwhile, Mrs von der Leyen announced that she had to pull out of the summit to self-isolate after a member of her staff tested positive for coronavirus, even though the German politician tested negative.

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