EU’s chief negotiator Barnier warns ‘little time left’ as Brexit stalemate drags on

European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and British Prime Minister's Europe adviser David Frost 5 are seen at start of the first round of post -Brexit trade deal talks between the EU and the United Kingdom, in Brussels, Belgium. (File photo: Reuters)

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier urged Britain on Tuesday to use the little time that remains to clinch a post-Brexit deal, with London refusing to restart talks until Brussels signals willingness to make concessions.

Barnier made his plea to end the stalemate after a phone call with his UK counterpart David Frost, who last week announced that talks were over after EU leaders ordered Britain to make a move.

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“My message: we should be making the most out of the little time left. Our door remains open,” Barnier tweeted after the call.

The conversation was a second day running on Tuesday that the men sought to unblock the talks after London rejected Brussels’ first outreach on Monday.

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Frost called the latest phone call “a constructive discussion”, but said “the situation remained as yesterday, and they will remain in contact.”

The British government had warned Barnier not to come to London this week to continue trade talks until Brussels makes a “fundamental change” in its negotiating stance.

London wants the EU side to confirm that both sides will have to make compromises to find a trade agreement, not just the UK, and wants to start work on a detailed text.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson redelivered that message to his Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis in a phone call on Tuesday, insisting that the EU had “effectively ended” negotiations “by stating they did not want to change their negotiating position”, a spokesman said.

Separately, Johnson’s spokesman told reporters that negotiator Frost needs to see “that this is a genuine negotiation rather than one side being expected to make all of the moves.

“We have said that our door is ajar to resume talks but that can only happen if the EU fundamentally change their approach...” to accept that movement needs to come from their side “as well as the UK”, he said.

Brussels has promised that it is ready to move on to “legal texts” and discuss the “structure” of the dialogue, but has not moved on its fair competition rules or fish quotas.

Nevertheless, while London insists that trade negotiations are on hold, both sides remain in close daily contact, and European sources expect full talks to resume shortly.

Britain, which left the EU in January but remains bound by most of the bloc’s rules until a transition period ends on December 31, accused Brussels of stalling negotiations.

An EU summit last week infuriated London when European leaders said the British side must make further compromises.

If no deal is found and implemented before December 31, Britain will end up trading with the EU on bare bones WTO regulations, a massive disruption to cross-Channel business.

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Last Update: Tuesday, 20 October 2020 KSA 21:00 - GMT 18:00
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