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Belgien Brüssel | Brexit | Handelsabkommen
Image: Reuters/O. Hoslet

Brexit talks going nowhere slowly, negotiators warn

July 23, 2020

The European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier says Britain has failed to engage, with two key issues proving particularly troublesome to resolve. The UK now faces a real risk of quotas and tariffs, he said.


A post-Brexit trade deal between the EU and UK is currently "unlikely" to be reached, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said on Thursday after the latest round of talks.

Barnier said an agreement would have to be reached by October for it to be implemented by the time Britain is currently scheduled to leave the EU single market in January.

While the EU remained committed to engaging constructively, said Barnier, Britain had "not shown the same level of engagement and readiness."

Read more: UK to launch post-Brexit points-based immigration system and reinforce borders

'The truth of Brexit'

Two essential areas were highlighted as being particularly contentious — Britain's refusal to commit to a level-playing field to allow fair competition, and to compromise on a fishery agreement. Barnier went on to give a warning.

"If you do not reach an agreement on our future partnership, there will be far more friction. For instance, on trading goods. In addition to new customs formalities, there will be tariffs and quotas," Barnier said. "This is the truth of Brexit."

Read more: EU's Michel Barnier slams UK over Brexit negotiations

Barnier's UK counterpart David Frost struck a more optimistic note but noted that significant divides would need to be bridged.

"Considerable gaps remain in the most difficult areas, that is, the so-called level playing field and on fisheries," he said.

Frost said Britain still wanted a deal similar to the one that the EU has with Canada, but that it was "unfortunately clear" that there would be no agreement this week.

Read more: Does the coronavirus crisis make a no-deal Brexit more likely?

In the political declaration agreed between the EU and UK last October (a legally nonbinding text which accompanied the legally binding Withdrawal Agreement), the EU and UK agreed that a robust regulatory regime to ensure fair and open competition would be needed to underpin a future free trade agreement.

The EU's Common Fisheries Policy allows European fishing fleets equal access to EU waters. Although fisheries account for just 0.1% of the UK economy, and although much of the British catch is currently exported to EU members, coastal communities in the UK voted enthusiastically for Brexit with fishing rights cited as a key reason. 

rc/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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