EU and Bri­tish ne­go­tia­tors agree to con­tinue trade talks next week

EU’s ap­proach to ne­go­ti­a­tions must change if no-deal is to be avoided, says Johnson

The Irish Times - - Front Page - DE­NIS STAUNTON Lon­don Edi­tor

Bri­tish and EU ne­go­tia­tors have agreed to talk next week de­spite Boris Johnson’s warn­ing that Bri­tain must prepare to leave the post-Brexit tran­si­tion pe­riod with­out a deal.

The Bri­tish prime min­is­ter said yes­ter­day there must be a “fun­da­men­tal change” in the EU’s ap­proach to the ne­go­ti­a­tions if a no-deal out­come is to be avoided.

“Af­ter 45 years of mem­ber­ship they are not will­ing, un­less there is some fun­da­men­tal change of ap­proach, to of­fer this coun­try the same terms as Canada.

“And so, with high hearts and com­plete con­fi­dence, we will prepare to em­brace the al­ter­na­tive,” he said.

Down­ing Street said the EU had ended the trade ne­go­ti­a­tions by fail­ing to agree to move into a more in­ten­sive phase of ne­go­ti­a­tions and for sug­gest­ing at this week’s Euro­pean Coun­cil in Brus­sels that Bri­tain must move from its po­si­tions to make a deal pos­si­ble.

In a call last evening, Bri­tain’s chief ne­go­tia­tor, David Frost, re­jected an of­fer by his EU coun­ter­part to re­sume talks in Lon­don next Mon­day, but the two men agreed to speak next week.

“Lord Frost said that, as the prime min­is­ter had made clear, the Euro­pean Coun­cil’s con­clu­sions yes­ter­day had left us with­out a ba­sis to con­tinue the trade talks with­out a fun­da­men­tal change in the EU’s ap­proach to these ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Dead­line

There was, ac­cord­ingly, no ba­sis for ne­go­ti­a­tions in Lon­don as of Mon­day. He and Michel Barnier agreed to talk again early next week,” a Down­ing Street spokesman said.

Mr Johnson last month set Oc­to­ber 15th as a dead­line for progress in the ne­go­ti­a­tions, threat­en­ing to walk away from the talks if a deal was not within reach.

EU lead­ers played down the sig­nif­i­cance of the lat­est Bri­tish move, stress­ing they wanted ne­go­ti­a­tions to con­tinue and that an agree­ment was in the in­ter­est of both sides.

“We are clear that we are de­ter­mined to ne­go­ti­ate, we are de­ter­mined to reach an agree­ment, but we know there are some dif­fi­cult top­ics.

“It is the case for fish­eries, cer­tainly, and also for level play­ing field and also gov­er­nance,” said Euro­pean Coun­cil pres­i­dent Charles Michel.

The two sides have moved closer in re­cent weeks on the most im­por­tant out­stand­ing is­sues: fish­eries, level play­ing field guar­an­tees of fair com­pe­ti­tion and how dis­putes over the agree­ment’s im­ple­men­ta­tion should be re­solved.

Bri­tain has been press­ing the EU to in­ten­sify the talks and to start ne­go­ti­at­ing the le­gal text of an agree­ment. but Brus­sels insists that the “land­ing zone” for a deal must be clear be­fore mov­ing into that phase.

Reck­less ap­proach

Scot­land’s first min­is­ter Nicola Stur­geon con­demned what she de­scribed as Mr Johnson’s reck­less ap­proach to the ne­go­ti­a­tions while Bri­tain is strug­gling to deal with the im­pact of coro­n­avirus.

“At best this is reck­less brinkman­ship.

“At worst it means the UK gov­ern­ment is now ac­tively pur­su­ing a no-deal out­come,” she said.

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