The latest round of Brexit negotiations has seen talks going backwards according to reports, with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier saying the chances of striking a deal before the end of the year are looking ‘unlikely’.
With the countdown to the end of the transition period ticking on, the EU has warned that UK negotiators have taken discussions backwards, with issues surrounding fishing and rules surrounding competition seemingly to be two of the main stumbling blocks around the negotiating table.
However, Boris Johnson has urged talks to ‘rapidly accelerate’ over fears of a cliff-edge Brexit – especially on the back of the economic damage seen so far by the coronavirus pandemic.
Barnier has said he is surprised and concerned by the lack of progress, commenting that ‘too often this week t felt as if we were going backwards more than forwards’.
BBC Brussels correspondent Nick Beake believes that both the EU and UK are locked in a last-minute power play, writing that ‘the latest round of discussions were courteous and friendly – with a warmth between the two chief negotiators facing each other – even when each was delivering an uncomfortable message’.
“As ever, the EU and UK are hardly seeing eye-to-eye though.”
However, one UK negotiator has suggested it is the EU that are holding up talks by insisting on agreeing to specific elements of the deal before progressing.
An official commented that: “The process block now is the EU’s insistence that we must accept their position on state aid and fisheries before we can talk about anything else. I mean obviously we’re not going to do that. So it’s frozen.
“Things are focussing down, not necessarily helpfully, on the issues of state aid, subsidy policy and fisheries policy. What’s frustrating here is that Michel Barnier said in his press conference just now, ‘Brexit means Brexit’, which is of course correct. They don’t apply that in this area where they want to see us continuing arrangements that are very like those that we’re bound by as members of the EU.”
With the seventh round of talks over, the next phase of negotiations will take place in London next month with just weeks left until the initial Autumn deadline to complete a deal.