The European Union’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said that a post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and the EU now “seems unlikely”.
Meanwhile, Mr Barnier’s counterpart, UK Chief Negotiator David Frost has said that an agreement is “still possible and it is still our goal” but that “it is clear that it will not be easy to achieve”
The comments on Friday came following the conclusion of the seventh round of post-Brexit negotiations between the UK and EU. The negotiations came after a previous round in July concluded with Mr Frost saying that ‘considerable gaps remain in the most difficult areas’.
The UK has been negotiating it’s future relationship with the European Union since it formally left the bloc on January 31 this year. It is currently in a transition period where it can negotiate a deal with the EU. If an agreement is not reached, the UK will face a no-deal scenario as the transition period ends on December 31 this year – this would mean the UK would have to trade with the EU on World Trade Organization terms.
Speaking on Friday, Michel Barnier accused the UK’s negotiators of “wasting valuable time”, saying “Too often this week it felt as if we were going backwards more than forwards”.
Mr Frost said, “We have had useful discussions this week but there has been little progress.”
Key sticking points in the negotiations such as over fisheries appear to remain, with Frost saying;
“The EU is still insisting not only that we must accept continuity with EU state aid and fisheries policy, but also that this must be agreed before any further substantive work can be done in any other area of the negotiation, including on legal texts. This makes it unnecessarily difficult to make progress. There are other significant areas which remain to be resolved and, even where there is a broad understanding between negotiators, there is a lot of detail to work through. Time is short for both sides.
The next official round of negotiations begins in the week of 7 September, with time running out for a deal to be agreed and ratified before the end of the year.
Photo Credit: European Union