Despite Boris Johnson’s call for Brexit negotiations to speed up, the seventh round of talks has today ended with little progress. Neither side is bothering to suggest the latest round was particularly productive. Instead, the comments today from Michel Barnier and the UK’s lead negotiator David Frost were focussed on attributing blame for the current deadlock.
Barnier said that, if anything, the talks had at times ‘felt as if we were going backwards more than forwards’. His outlook for a potential deal is gloomy – suggesting it seems ‘unlikely’.
Meanwhile, Frost has hit out at Brussels’s refusal to move on to many aspects of a potential agreement until issues surrounding EU state-aid and fisheries are solved: ‘The EU is still insisting not only that we must accept continuity with EU state-aid and fisheries policy but also that this must be agreed before any further substantive work can be done in any other area of the negotiation, including on legal texts.’
While the specific issues relate to state aid and fisheries, the general disagreement is one of sovereignty. There is a frustration on the UK side that Brussels is yet to take seriously the idea that regaining sovereign control takes priority over potential economic pain.
With both sides sounding pessimistic about the likelihood of a deal, time is running out. There is a view in government that a lot of businesses will start to activate their no-deal plans if there isn’t an agreement in the autumn. This means that the next rounds will be vital if there is going to be progress.
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