The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator arrive for the eighth round of talks with his UK counterpart David Frost after Prime Minister Boris Johnson set a five-week deadline for trade talks to succeed in time for the transition’s end on December 31.The meeting comes after cables sent from the Brussels to EU capitals in the last few days reveal the bloc’s unease at Britain’s negotiating strategy.
Mr Barnier is said be “concerned” Mr Johnson is holding back on finding an agreement on fishing and state aid in order to achieve a last-minute “trade off”, according to The Guardian.
An EU Commission source said: “These points will not be easy to iron out with just a phone call between leaders.“It is leaving it too late.”Meanwhile the EU is also concerned Home Secretary Priti Patel will attempt to agree security assurances from member blocs away from Brexit negotiations after she invited five to a meeting in London on September 22.
The revelation comes after talks were put on a collision course over new Brexit legislation which has dismayed senior EU figures, who are concerned it could override key elements of the Withdrawal Agreement that sealed the UK’s departure from the bloc in January.
Meanwhile, Mr Frost said the two sides “can no longer afford to go over well-trodden ground” in the deadlocked talks, as he warned progress must be made this week to get an agreement in place for the end of the transition period.
Speaking on the eve of talks, Mr Frost said: “Today, I will sit down with Michel Barnier and drive home our clear message that we must make progress this week if we are to reach an agreement in time.
“We have now been talking for six months and can no longer afford to go over well-trodden ground.”We need to see more realism from the EU about our status as an independent country.”
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8am update: Brexit trade talks could be ‘null and void’
Britain’s trade talks with the EU would be rendered “null and void” if the Brexit withdrawal agreement it signed up to is not implemented in full, Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin has warned.
The EU warned Britain on Monday that there would be no trade deal if a Financial Times report that London might simply undercut the divorce treaty signed in January was accurate. The deal included special arrangements to avoid a hard border between Ireland and British-ruled Northern Ireland.
Mr Martin told the Irish Examiner in an interview: “The withdrawal agreement is an international treaty and we expect the UK government to implement and to adhere to what was agreed. We trust them to do so or they would render the talks process null and void.”
7.46am udpate: UK will leave with no deal if EU not flexible
Britain’s housing minister has warned that unless the EU started to show more flexibility to help clinch a Canadian-style free trade deal then the government would be happy to leave the bloc without a deal.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told Sky News when asked if he was looking forward to a no-deal Brexit: “We want to leave with a Canada-style free trade arrangement – that’s always been our preference – and we think that’s still possible.
“But… if they don’t show the degree of flexibility and realism that we want them to show… then we’ll leave with the kind of trading arrangements that Australia and other countries have and we think that’s also a good arrangement for the future.”