BRUSSELS (AP), Friday, May 15, 2020 — Talks between the European Union and the United Kingdom on their post-Brexit relationship ground to a near-standstill Friday, with each side accusing the other of blocking progress on a trade deal just weeks before a crucial summit.
The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, told a news conference in Brussels that a week-long round of talks had been “disappointing, very disappointing.”
Barnier said there was no progress on all the most difficult issues and insisted Britain would have to show more realism.
“I am not optimistic in the face of British incomprehension,” he said.
The British side echoed the glum assessment, calling the mood of the talks “tetchy.”
UK negotiator David Frost said the talks had “made very little progress towards agreement on the most significant outstanding issues.”
In a statement, Frost accused the EU of insisting on “an ideological approach which makes it more difficult to reach a mutually beneficial agreement.”
The two sides remain at odds over a range of key issues including fishing and the role of high courts in settling future disputes.
EU leaders and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson are scheduled to have a summit at the end of June, likely by video, to take stock of the talks’ progress.
Britain officially left the 27-nation bloc on January 31, but remains within the EU’s economic and regulatory orbit until the end of the year.
The two sides have until then to work out a new relationship covering trade, security and a host of other issues — or face a chaotic split that would be economically disruptive for both sides, but especially for the UK.
The UK-EU divorce agreement allows for the deadline to be extended by two years, but Johnson’s government insists it won’t lengthen the transition period beyond December 31.
- Inset Photo 1: Olivier Hoslet, Pool Photo via AP File, Monday, March 2, 2020, European Commission’s Head of Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom Michel Barnier (right) speaks with the British Prime Minister’s Europe adviser David Frost in Brussels