The opening salvo comes on the eve of critical post-Brexit trade talks which will determine Britain’s future trading relationship with the European Union from the beginning of next year. The next round of talks begins on Monday and will be held face to face for the first time since the coronavirus epidemic. David Frost, known as “the sherpa” on EU negotiations, said that the “intensified process” in the discussions needed to be realistic.
The comments come after the Prime Minister insisted that the UK would reject an EU offer to extend the Brexit transition period beyond the end of the year.
In bullish language, Mr Frost insisted that UK sovereignty over laws, courts, and fishing waters was “not up for discussion”.
He also stated that what he called some of the EU’s more “unrealistic positions” will have to change in order to achieve progress.
In a volley of tweets Mr Frost said: “We will go to Brussels in good faith to engage with the EU’s concerns.
“This needs to be a real negotiation and some of the EU’s unrealistic positions will have to change if we are to move forward.
“We have noted carefully what the EU has said in recent days on this subject and look forward to discussing it.
“UK sovereignty, over our laws, our courts, or our fishing waters, is of course not up for discussion.
“Equally we do not seek anything which would undermine the integrity of the EU’s single market.
“I want to be clear that the Government will not agree to ideas like the one currently circulating giving the EU a new right to retaliate with tariffs if we chose to make laws suiting our interests.
“We could not leave ourselves open to such unforeseeable economic risk.”
Mr Frost said he was looking forward to the resumption of face-to-face talks in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
He said: “The next round of talks with the EU begins on Monday 29 June. This is the start of the intensified process.
“For the first time since March we will meet face to face, in Brussels. We look forward to welcoming the EU team to London the week after.
“These meetings will be smaller and focused on seeing whether we can begin to make genuine and rapid progress towards an agreement.”
The UK has a deadline of July 1 if it wants to extend the transition period beyond the end of the year.
Mr Frost’s EU counterpart said that Britain must send “clear signals” that it wants to seal a deal with the European Union on their relationship after Brexit.
Michel Barnier said Britain had so far not engaged with tentative openings floated by the EU side on state aid and fisheries in the previous negotiating rounds.
Speaking in an online seminar, Mr Barnier added: “The ball is in the UK’s court, I believe that the deal is still possible.”
He said he was “disappointed” with Britain’s refusal to negotiate on foreign policy and defence but that he was open to finding a “margin of flexibility” on thus-far conflicting EU and UK positions on fishing and the state aid fair play guarantees.
When asked how far the bloc could go towards Britain on the so-called level playing field provisions of fair competition, Mr Barnier added: “As well as with fisheries and governance, we are ready to work on landing zones, respecting the mandate of the EU.”
Tuesday was the fourth anniversary of the historic referendum which saw 17.4 million people voting to leave the EU.
Conservative MP Michael Fabricant said: “We must stick to our guns and not extend the Transition so the EU can be focussed on a new mutually beneficial trade agreement with the UK while maintaining our sovereignty as a major power out of the EU.”