'Very little progress' made in UK-EU Brexit trade talks

15 May 2020, 12:39

Michel Barnier on Brexit negotiations: "You cannot have the best of both worlds"

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Very little progress was made in UK-EU talks on future trade arrangements, Britain's chief negotiator David Frost has said.

The UK's Chief Brexit negotiator said he regretted that the two parties had made, "very little progress"

David Frost claims the EU is insisting on proposing rules that would keep Britain tied to EU laws or standards.

The European Commission's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said that the rights of citizens is the priority for both the UK and the EU in negotiations.

Speaking at the European Commission press conference, he said: "You cannot have the best of both worlds."

UK negotiator David Frost and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier seen together in March
UK negotiator David Frost and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier seen together in March. Picture: PA

The two sides were speaking after the latest round of talks on the future relationship between the UK and the European Union.

Mr Frost said: "We have just completed our third negotiating round with the EU.

"I regret however that we made very little progress towards agreement on the most significant outstanding issues between us.

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Boris Johnson has repeatedly insisted he will not seek any extension of the current transition period beyond December 31 - despite the potential economic impact if there is no agreement by that point.

Brussels has accused the UK side of trying to run down the clock in an attempt to force them to accept an agreement on its terms rather than suffer the widely anticipated disruption to trade if there is no deal.

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Mr Frost said: "It is very clear that a standard Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, with other key agreements on issues like law enforcement, civil nuclear, and aviation alongside, all in line with the Political Declaration, could be agreed without major difficulties in the time available.

"Both sides have tabled full legal texts, there are plenty of precedents, and there is clearly a good understanding between negotiators.

"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."

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Mr Barnier also said: "In parallel to these negotiations, both the UK and the EU have a legal commitment to implement the Withdrawal Agreement.

"Here, citizens' rights are the priority for both sides and since the very beginning the UK tells us it has some concerns about the treatment of British nationals in the EU.

"We yesterday received a letter from Michael Gove. I want to tell you that the commission is very, very attentive to this issue and we have just published guidelines to support all 27 member states to live up to the commitments of the Withdrawal Agreement.

"But at the same time, we will also be watching closely to make sure that EU citizens residing in the UK do not face unfair treatment or any kind of discrimination and the European Parliament is particularly attentive to this."