Brexit talks between the UK’s chief negotiator David Frost and his EU counterpart Michel Barnier ended on Thursday a day earlier than planned after no trade agreement was forthcoming. Following the first face-to-face meeting since the coronavirus crisis, Mr Frost stated “significant differences” remain, while Michel Barnier refused to shift on the EU’s red-lines on a level playing field and access to UK fishing waters.
The end of the fourth round of discussions has put both sides on course for a no deal scenario at the end of the transition period on December 31.
Boris Johnson has made it clear the UK would like a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the European Union.
Mr Barnier has so far rejected the proposition and has insisted on a deal covering all aspects of the future relationship and not just trade.
The Brussels chief has been given a mandate by the EU27 member states to demand Britain follows a level playing field on trade with the EU, in order to protect the single market from being undercut in any future agreements.
Should no trade agreement be reached by the end of the year it would result in hefty tariffs being placed on EU products imported into the UK and the levying of tariffs on UK products imported into the EU.
The tariffs would increase the price of EU goods coming into the UK – therefore hitting the British consumer hardest in the pocket.
On fishing, Mr Frost has rejected EU demands for access to UK waters and Britain is set to leave the controversial Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
By leaving the CFP and taking back control of UK territories, Britain will be able to prevent large swathes of fish stocks being shipped to the continent by European trawlers.
Following the talks in Brussels, Mr Frost said: “We have completed our discussion of the full range of issues in the negotiation in just over three days.
“The negotiations have been comprehensive and useful.
“But they have also underlined the significant differences that still remain between us on a number of important issues.”
Mr Barnier warned there were still “serious divergences” between the two sides.
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“The EU expects, in turn, its positions to be better understood and respected in order to reach an agreement.
“We need an equivalent engagement by the United Kingdom.”
On Friday morning, Mr Johnson remained positive a trade agreement could be reached and hit out at Mr Barnier for his negativity.
The Prime Minister stated a “good deal” could be made but warned the UK could equally walk away on Australian-style terms, without formal ties, if no breakthrough could be achieved.
In an interview with LBC, Mr Johnson said: “We now need to make sure that we get a good deal.
“I’m a bit more optimistic than Michel is there, there is a good agreement to be reached but obviously if we can’t then we will have the very good option also of an Australian-style arrangement.”