Getting a Brexit deal will 'not be easy to achieve', says UK chief negotiator

21 August 2020, 11:00

Brexit negotiators David Frost (left) and Michel Barnier are yet to reach an agreement
Brexit negotiators David Frost (left) and Michel Barnier are yet to reach an agreement. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Getting a Brexit deal will 'not be easy to achieve', the UK's chief negotiator has said after the seventh round of talks with the EU.

Following talks, David Frost said there had been "little progress" and warned it could be difficult to strike a final arrangement due to strong disagreements over state aid and fishing policies.

He blamed the EU for making it "unnecessarily difficult" to make progress in the negotiations.

Mr Frost told reporters: “We have just concluded the seventh round of negotiations with the EU. As I said last week, agreement is still possible, and it is still our goal, but it is clear that it will not be easy to achieve.

"Substantive work continues to be necessary across a range of different areas of potential UK-EU future cooperation if we are to deliver it.

“We have had useful discussions this week but there has been little progress."

“The EU is still insisting not only that we must accept continuity with EU state aid and fisheries policy, but also that this must be agreed before any further substantive work can be done in any other area of the negotiation, including on legal texts."

Mr Frost warned there were "other significant areas" which are yet to be resolved with EU negotiators and, even where there is a broad understanding between the two sides, there is "a lot of detail" which neither side will compromise on.

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The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said the issue of a level playing field "is not going to go away" and that "no progress whatsoever" had been made on the issue of fisheries.

Speaking at a press conference, he said: "Ladies and gentlemen, the need for a level playing field is not going to go away, even if the UK continues to exist on a low-quality agreement on goods and services only."

He added that "it is a non-negotiable pre-condition to grant access to our market of 450 million citizens".

Mr Barnier said: "We are asking for nothing more but nothing less, nothing less than what Prime Minister Boris Johnson committed to in our joint political declaration last October together with the 27 EU leaders."

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He added: "We hear the British Government's concern about maintaining its sovereignty and its regulatory autonomy and we respect that, clearly. But no international agreement was ever reached without the parties agreeing to common rules - no international agreement.

"And I can predict, with absolute certainty, this will also be the case of trade agreements between the UK and other partners in the future such as the United States, Japan and Australia.

Mr Barnier added that other areas where more progress is needed include law enforcement "where we still struggle to agree on the necessary guarantees to protect citizens' fundamental rights and personal data".