Michel Barnier urges the UK to ‘make the most out of the little time left’ and Downing Street demands a ‘clear assurance’ from the EU it is willing to compromise as stalemate continues and post-Brexit trade talks remain on life support
- Trade talks remain on life support after UK said EU not serious about doing a deal
- Lord Frost and Michel Barnier spoke this afternoon – second time in two days
- But breakthrough remains elusive with Mr Barnier saying EU ‘door remains open’
- Downing Street said UK needs ‘clear assurance’ Brussels willing to compromise
- No10 said EU must show it is open to ‘genuine negotiation’ for talks to resume
Post-Brexit trade talks between the UK and the EU remain on life support today after Michel Barnier and Lord Frost were unable to agree a path back to the negotiating table.
The EU’s chief negotiator and his UK counterpart spoke by phone this afternoon for the second time in two days.
But while the conversation was described by Number 10 as ‘constructive’ ultimately the ‘situation remained the same as yesterday’.
Mr Barnier tweeted after the call that the EU’s ‘door remains open’ to striking a trade accord as he warned Downing Street that ‘we should be making the most out of the little time left’.
Earlier, Number 10 had told Brussels it needed a ‘clear assurance’ from the bloc that it is now willing to compromise in order for trade talks to resume.
The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said the EU must demonstrate it is open to a ‘genuine negotiation rather than one side being expected to make all of the moves’.
Boris Johnson had set a deadline of agreeing a broad outline of a deal with the EU by last week’s European Council summit.
But the two sides remain deadlocked in a number of key areas, including on post-Brexit fishing rights.
Downing Street said the UK needed a ‘clear assurance’ from the EU that it was willing to compromise for trade talks to resume. Michel Barnier and Lord Frost are due to speak to each other this afternoon
EU leaders said they were willing for talks to continue but refused to give any ground as they told the UK it had to make the next move.
That prompted Mr Johnson to pause official talks and formally activate preparations for the UK to split from the bloc at the end of the standstill transition period in December without a trade accord.
However, Michael Gove, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, said on Sunday that the UK’s door remained ‘ajar’ to talks resuming.
Mr Barnier then said yesterday following a phone call with Lord Frost that the EU is willing to ‘intensify’ talks.
The pair spoke again this afternoon but there was no breakthrough as a Number 10 spokesman said: ‘Lord Frost and Michel Barnier had a constructive discussion. The situation remained as yesterday, and they will remain in contact.’
Mr Barnier tweeted: ‘I spoke again to [David Frost] today. My message: we should be making the most out of the little time left. Our door remains open.’
Number 10 had said at lunchtime the Government required a clear commitment from the EU of a change in approach if formal negotiations are to restart.
The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: ‘You obviously saw Michel Barnier’s comments yesterday saying that the EU is ready to genuinely intensify work and that is what would be expected at this stage in a negotiation.
‘We have said that, in the words of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster [Mr Gove], our door is ajar to resume talks.
‘But that can only happen if the EU fundamentally change their approach and also they make it clear that they have done so.
‘What that means in particular is an acceptance from the EU that movement needs to come from the EU side as well as the UK.’
Asked if the UK required a formal statement from the EU setting out a change in approach, the spokesman said: ‘I think what David Frost needs to see is a clear assurance from the EU that it has made a fundamental change in approach to the talks and that this is going to be a genuine negotiation rather than one side being expected to make all of the moves.’
The spokesman said Lord Frost will advise Mr Johnson on whether he believes the EU has made a significant enough shift for talks to get back under way.
Mr Barnier had tweeted yesterday: ‘As stated by President [Ursula von der Leyen] on Friday, I confirmed that the EU remains available to intensify talks in London this week, on all subjects, and based on legal texts. We now wait for the UK’s reaction.’
The EU said this morning that both sides will need to compromise in order to strike a post-Brexit trade deal.
A European Commission spokesman told a briefing in Brussels: ‘I think it is pretty obvious that in order to come to an agreement both sides need to meet and this is also obviously the case in this negotiation.’
Mr Johnson has said that if the EU refuses to budge then the UK is prepared to trade with the bloc on basic World Trade Organisation terms from January.
The Government has repeatedly described this as an Australia-style trading arrangement.
Australia has no comprehensive trade deal with the EU and it also does far less business with Brussels than the UK.
A no deal split would see the EU impose tariffs on UK goods, with business groups warning this would damage British firms at a time when they can least afford it because of the coronavirus crisis.