It “seems unlikely” at this stage that a trade deal between the United Kingdom and the European Union would be possible after Brexit, said the negotiator for the EU.
He was “disappointed” and “concerned”, said Michel Barnier while speaking after the latest round of talks.
With differences on fisheries policy and state aid rules, Barnier UK counterpart David Frost talked about “little progress” being made in the talks.
The EU wants to get a trade deal with the UK through with by October so that there is enough time to get the deal passed and ratified by its members countries so that it can be implemented prior to the expiry of the post-Brexit transition period which comes to an end on December 31 this year.
In the eventuality of the two parties not being able to come to an agreement on trade, the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO) would apply to trade between the parties. That would entail imposing tariffs on more UK goods exported to the EU till such time that a free trade agreement is arrived at.
Talks will be extended beyond the December deadline if a free trade agreement is not achieved with the EU, the UK has said.
By insisting that differences over state aid and fisheries have to be resolved before “substantive work can be done in any other area of the negotiation, including on legal texts”, the EU had made it “unnecessarily difficult” to make progress, Frost said in a statement released after the seventh round of talks.
A draft legal text for a free-trade agreement has been presented to the EU by the UK in an effort to break the deadlock for the trade deal.
The UK was seeking a deal which “ensures we regain sovereign control of our own laws, borders, and waters”, said Frost who reports directly to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The unwillingness of the EU to commit to paper areas of agreement till that such time that the major sticking points of the negotiations – fishing and state aid, are resolved, is the major cause of frustration for the UK.
On the other hand the EU is miffed because it argues that while the UK wants to retain the benefits of the single market but not paying the membership fee or agreeing to follow the EU rules on trade and other things.
Both the sides however insisted that they do want a deal even as there is talks of disappointment, time-wasting and a lack of compromise.
While accusing of the UK of “wasting valuable time”, Barnier, speaking at a press briefing in Brussels, also suggested that the draft text provided by the UK was “useful” but downplayed the significance of the draft in reaching any agreement.
“Too often this week it felt as if we were going backwards more than forwards,” he said. “Given the short time left, what I said in London in July remains true, today at this stage, an agreement between the UK and EU seems unlikely,” he added.
There had been “no progress whatsoever” on the subject of access to UK and EU fishing waters, he said, even though there has been good progress in the areas of energy co-operation, participation in union programmes and anti-money laundering.
The demand of the EU to have a level playing field – which has turned out to be one of the other sticking points in negotiations, was “a non-negotiable pre-condition to grant access to our market of 450 million citizens”, he also said.
(Adapted from BBC.com)