Brexit trade talks between the UK and EU are at deadlock despite a desire by both sides to secure a deal before the transition period runs out on December 31. Both sides have expressed they want to secure a deal but red lines have hindered progress.
The EU has demanded the same access to British fishing waters which is a major red line for Boris Johnson and his team, who want to reclaim the UK sovereignty on such matters.
In an extraordinary outburst from Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French Foreign Minister claimed Britain’s “intransigent and unrealistic” attitude is to blame for the deadlock.
Both sides have accused the other of posing unachievable demands.
Of all the EU leaders Emmanuel Macron has taken the hardest stance with insiders saying the French President believes without a fisheries agreement there can be no trade deal.
In a speech to French ambassadors based in Europe, Mr Le Drian said: “The negotiations are not advancing because of an intransigent and, let’s be clear, unrealistic attitude of the United Kingdom.”
The French minister added the EU was as united as ever in reaching an ambitious Brexit deal but the ball was in Britain’s court.
Meanwhile his German counterpart Heiko Maas, who was speaking alongside the French Foreign Minister, said Germany wanted “the closest possible cooperation with Great Britain on foreign and security policy”.
But he warned without “linking this policy with Brussels” other EU countries would be more important in the future.
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Earlier, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the talks would enter their decisive phase over the coming weeks while EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier called for a deal by the end of October.
But neither side has so far indicated it is willing to budge on the main sticking points of state aid rules and fishing quotas.
There are also unresolved differences over migration, security, dispute-settling mechanisms, human rights guarantees and other areas.
And some EU officials now believe Boris Johnson is willing to risk a no deal Brexit when the transition period comes to an end on New Year’s Eve and fear he will then try to pin the blame on Brussels if an agreement is not reached.
A discussion about the negotiations over Britain and the European Union’s post-Brexit relationship has been dropped from the agenda of a meeting of EU envoys next week because the talks have stalled.
EU officials now believe the British government is prepared to risk a no deal exit when the transition period comes to an end on December 31, and will try to pin the blame on Brussels if talks fail.
The German government, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU council, had intended to discuss Brexit during the meeting, but dropped it because there had not been “any tangible progress” in the talks.
Disagreements over state aid rules and fishing quotas have led to the deadlock which the EU says must be in the making in time to be approved at an October 15-16 summit of the bloc’s 27 national leaders to enable ratification this year.
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Beyond the biggest stumbling blocks, differences also linger in discussions on migration, security, dispute-settling mechanisms, human rights guarantees and other areas.
The eighth round of Brexit talks are not due to formally start until September 7 but Mr Barnier has hinted discussions could begin this week.
The EU chief said he had no plans to meet UK negotiator David Frost this week, but then added added: “But perhaps next week if conditions allow.”
The UK chief negotiator said the EU’s insistence on accepting its terms on state aid and fishing had made an agreement “unnecessarily difficult”.
Mr Frost said: “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.
“This makes it unnecessarily difficult to make progress.
“There are other significant areas which remain to be resolved and, even where there is a broad understanding between negotiators, there is a lot of detail to work through. Time is short for both sides.”