BRUSSELS — The European Union’s (EU) chief negotiator for relations with the United Kingdom (UK), Michel Barnier, said Thursday that the UK’s approach was making a post-Brexit trade deal “unlikely” as the sixth round of talks ended with little progress.
Barnier told a news conference in London that the UK was refusing to move on its red lines and was not showing “the same level of engagement and readiness to find a solution” as the EU.
“By its current refusal to commit to conditions of open and fair competition and to a balanced agreement on fisheries, the UK makes a trade agreement at this point unlikely,” he said.
Barnier said the two sides remained far apart on how to ensure a level playing field between EU and UK businesses, as well as on access of EU fishing vessels to British waters, warning that “the time for answers is quickly running out” as “the UK did not show a willingness to break the deadlock.”
On the issue of a level playing field, Barnier said the UK was refusing to commit to maintaining high standards in a meaningful way.
“This is all the more worrying because we have no visibility on the UK’s intention on its future domestic subsidy control regime… The UK wants to regain its regulatory autonomy. We respect that. But can the UK use this new regulatory autonomy to distort competition with us?” he asked.
On fisheries, Barnier explained that the UK was effectively asking for a near-total exclusion of EU fishing vessels from UK waters. “That is simply unacceptable,” he said, adding that “any agreement cannot lead to the partial destruction of the EU fishing industry.”
He noted that the UK had chosen to leave the EU Single Market and the Customs Union on Jan. 1, 2021, but with just more than five months to go, the timeframes were tight.
“If we want to avoid additional friction, we must come to an agreement in October at the latest, so that our new treaty can enter into force on January 1 next year. This means that we only have a few weeks left and we should not waste them.”
Barnier said talks will continue in London next week before the next formal round of negotiations in mid-August.