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EU refuses Barnier’s plea for help as Brexit talks head for no deal | Politics | News

In a fresh blow to the Brussels diplomat, member states said after “sub-zero progress” it was too early for governments to step in and rescue the future relationship negotiations with Britain. EU diplomats are preparing for next week’s wrangling over a free-trade agreement to breakdown when Mr Barnier meets his UK counterpart David Frost in London next week. But capitals have insisted prime ministers and presidents will not intervene until the final minute to save the process.

The rejection comes after Mr Barnier urged European governments to play an active role in convincing Boris Johnson to soften his approach in the row over fisheries and state subsidies.

An EU diplomat said: “In July, Boris Johnson vowed to put a ‘tiger in the tank’’ but that is leading nowhere, therefore it makes no sense to get leaders involved.

“Let’s give the negotiators a serious chance to work and wait for October to see where we are.”

In a private meeting of senior diplomats, Mr Barnier expressed concerns the talks could not progress without a compromise on access to Britain’s fishing grounds and industrial policy.

The Frenchman said the negotiations would not move forward before the Government publishes its post-Brexit plans for state aid.

European Council President Charles Michel has told member states Brexit will be scrubbed off the agenda for this month’s leaders’ summit.

“Brexit will not feature on September’s European Council agenda because there is nothing to talk about,” a source briefed on talks said.

“The last week of next month is when we’re approaching crunch time, if we don’t make progress by the end of October it will be very hard.

“If we have no clarity by October what the direction of travel is going to be, that will be very clear we will need another high-level push – but the next summit will be to declare no deal.”

Mr Michel earlier claimed the UK negotiators needed to “clarify” their demands.

The EU Council President said: “Sooner or later, the UK should clarify what they want. It’s not possible to leave the European club and at the same time keep all the benefits.

“The UK should clarify its position. For us, the level-playing field is key and essential.

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Speaking ahead of the next round of talks, the Prime Minister’s lead negotiator said the EU would have to change its approach to strike a deal.

Lord Frost said: “We have scheduled lots of time for discussions, as we should at this point in the talks.

“However, the EU still insists we change our positions on state aid and fisheries if there are to be substantive textual discussions on anything else.

“From the very beginning we have been clear about what we can accept in these areas, which are fundamental to our status as an independent country. We will negotiate constructively but the EU’s stance may, realistically, limit the progress we can make next week.”

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