The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has said a trade agreement with the UK is “at this point unlikely”.
Speaking in London after the latest round of talks, he blamed this on the UK’s “current refusal to commit to conditions of open and fair competition and to a balanced agreement on fisheries”.
Mr Barnier said the UK had shown no willingness to break the deadlock on these key issues, despite a “positive atmosphere”, and useful discussions on some issues in goods and services.
But he added that the negotiations were complex and required progress across all areas. “We are still far away,” he said.
He accused the UK of refusing to commit to maintaining high standards in a meaningful way. The EU wants a ‘level playing field’ in any future agreement, due to concerns that the UK will undercut the EU in a number of areas once it leaves.
“The EU cannot and will not accept to foot the bill for the UK's political choices,” said Mr Barnier.
On fisheries, he said the UK was effectively asking for a near total exclusion of EU fishing vessels from UK waters. He described this as “simply unacceptable”.
Mr Barnier warned that, in order to avoid tariffs and quotas coming into effect from January, there had to be an agreement in October at the latest. “This means that we only have a few weeks left, and that we should not waste them,” he added.
The UK’s chief negotiator David Frost was more upbeat. “Despite all the difficulties, on the basis of the work we have done in July, my assessment is that agreement can still be reached in September,” he said.