UK says EU trade talks 'over' after EU says they'll continue

Daniel Fowler
October 16, 2020

Though the British prime minister left the door open for talks, he indicated he would slam it shut if there was no change from the EU.

Mr Johnson has previously suggested he would walk away from the negotiating table if there was no agreement on a trade deal by the time of the two-day summit meeting in Brussels starting on Thursday.

Irish premier Micheal Martin also emphasised the importance of securing a satisfactory agreement on fishing if there was to be an overall trade deal.

Barnier said the talks could go on until the end of October, the rough date set by the European Union side in order to leave enough parliamentary time to ratify the deal before the Brexit transition expires on December 31.

British sources said the trade talks are now over, but that claim was undermined by Mr Johnson himself.

If both sides follow the same rules, they can trade without any barriers.

EU leaders are also keen for the European Commission to step up its preparation for a no deal scenario, under which EU-UK trade from January would be conducted according to World Trade Organisation terms.

After Mr Johnson's bid to undercut the 2020 Brexit divorce treaty, there are fears that London is employing what one European diplomat said was Madman Theory - a reference to former USA president Richard Nixon's attempt to convince Moscow that he was irrational during the Cold War in the 1970s.

In a document issued during the summit in Brussels this week, the European Union said progress in key areas was now "not sufficient" to reach a deal and asked EU's Chief Brexit Negotiator, Michel Barnier, to "continue negotiations in the coming weeks".

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Mr Johnson said in September that there "needs to be an agreement with our European friends by the time of the European Council on October 15 if it's going to be in force by the end of the year".

"We are close to a deal".

Barnier added that his team was headed for London to engage in more talks next week and had planned to host negotiations in Brussels the week after that, though the United Kingdom has not yet publicly agreed to that timetable.

He said the issues yet to be resolved were "narrow", relating to fisheries and competition.

The EU says Britain is trying to retain the advantages of EU membership without the commitment to play by the bloc's rules. "On Monday, we'll be in London for the full week, including the weekend if necessary", the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said after addressing the leaders.

Both sides are calling on each other to compromise on key issues, including fishing and limits on government subsidies to businesses. Behind the scenes, officials said talks will likely continue into mid-November.

"We are clear that we are determined to negotiate, we are determined to reach an agreement but we know there are some hard topics", he said. "On no account will our fishermen be sacrificed for Brexit".

"All the effort is worth it and we will of course support the negotiations", said German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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