Brexit: Europe, UK trade talks stall over 'serious differences'

Daniel Fowler
July 7, 2020

Barnier said in a statement that while "serious divergences remain" he believes "an agreement is possible and in everyone's interest".

And German Chancellor Angela Merkel said upon taking over help of the EU's rotating presidency Wednesday that both her country and the 27-nation bloc "should prepare for the case that an agreement is not reached".

The UK-EU talks, first reported by the Financial Times, represent a test of the cooperation required to tackle worldwide emergencies after Brexit.

Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, said Brussels could agree to the use of zonal attachment, a key British request in ongoing trade negotiations, if it was coupled with other factors such as assessing the economic impact on coastal communities.

His counterpart from London, David Frost, spoke similarly of "significant differences that still remain between us on a number of important issues".

If no agreement is reached before that deadline, the two sides will revert to trading on World Trade Organisation terms.

The EU has hinted at a willingness to drop its initial asks of EU state aid being incorporated into domestic United Kingdom legislation, non-regression from the bloc's environmental, social and labour regulations and the effective continuation of the common fisheries policy.

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Key areas of disagreement include the extent of European Union access to United Kingdom fishing grounds, and so-called "level playing field" arrangements to ensure fair competition.

A planned meeting on Friday between Barnier and his United Kingdom counterpart David Frost was cancelled after both sides agreed to call an early end to the week's round.

Instead, the United Kingdom government said that "The negotiations have been comprehensive and useful".

Discussions will still resume in London as planned next week, according to statements from both sides, with officials saying the early finish isn't a sign the talks have collapsed.

Meanwhile, a row continues over the failure of both sides to provide "equivalence" judgements by the end of June to allow financial service operators to continue to work across the United Kingdom and the EU.

Earlier this week Barnier suggested the British government had been late in providing the necessary information to allow a decision to be made.

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