European diplomats and officials accused Lord Frost, the Prime Minister’s Brexit envoy, of political posturing ahead of a crunch round of trade talks in London. The bloc believes the Tory peer has made a “gross miscalculation” by refusing to reveal Britain’s post-transition plans for state subsidies and tax breaks for companies. EU sources say the Government’s refusal to budge in the wrangling over a regulatory level-playing field has blocked any chance of progress in recent weeks.
An EU diplomat told Express.co.uk: “The pure naked absence of a plan for the UK’s future state aid regime stands in the way of progress.
“It is not only a pity but a gross miscalculation that this crucial element can’t be left until the last moment.”
EU capitals are refusing to back down in the stand-off over whether Britain should remain closely aligned to the bloc’s own state aid system.
“We don’t want our own companies to suffer disadvantage by giving the UK free reign over state aid,” the diplomat added.
“We don’t want Boris Johnson to subsidise companies without checks and balance. We’ve known for a while they don’t want the EU’s system but we don’t know what they do want. In the end you need some broad rules to determine and enforce sanctions, without that this can’t go anywhere.”
Brussels now expects the Brexit trade talks to run into November. A source said: “The negotiations will will last three or four days into November, but they can’t go beyond that.”
But the battle over access to Britain’s fishing grounds is expected to take a backseat in the talks.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, will warn the bloc’s coastal nations they should not “sacrifice any agreement” on fisheries if both sides can reach a deal on the so-called “level-playing field”, a source said.
Lord Frost’s first newspaper interview was branded “very predictable” by another diplomatic source in Brussels.
He told a Sunday newspaper the EU still had not shown respect for Britons’ decision to quit the bloc.
“We are not going to be a client state. We are not going to compromise on the fundamentals of having control over our own laws,” Lord Frost said.
“We are not going to accept level playing field provisions that lock us in to the way the EU do things; we are not going to accept provisions that give them control over our money or the way we can organise things here in the UK and that should not be controversial – that’s what being an independent country is about, that’s what the British people voted for and that’s what will happen at the end of the year, come what may.”
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Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab accused Brussels of “double standards” ahead of next week’s make-or-break negotiations.
He warned the negotiations are a “moment of reckoning” for the future relationship pact.
“We’ve actually got the issues boiled down to two outstanding bones of contention,” he said.
“There is a good deal there for the EU; we’d love to do that free trade agreement – and if not, we’ll fall back on Australian-style rules.
“I think this week is an important moment for the EU to really effectively recognise that those two point of principles are not something we can just haggle away – they are the very reasons we are leaving the EU, but we want a positive relationship and the arm of friendship and goodwill is extended.
“It is up to the EU to decide whether they want to reciprocate.”