#Brexit – Barnier warns EU and UK still have ‘serious divergences’

| July 2, 2020
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - JUNE 05: Michel Barnier, Chief Negotiator for Europe, attends a press conference regarding the fourth round of Brexit negotiations on June 5, 2020 in Brussels, Belgium. This week's discussions which were held online ahead of a summit that is expected take place later this month, involving Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen. The UK has until the end of June to ask for the an extension to the current transition period, during which the country stays in the single market and customs union but Mr Johnson has ruled this out. (Photo by Daina Le Lardic - Pool/Getty Images)
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said a Brexit agreement was still possible, despite serious divergences with the UK. (Daina Le Lardic/Getty Images)

There are still “serious divergences” between the UK and the EU over Brexit, the EU’s chief negotiator said today (2 July), writes Edmund Heaphy.

Michel Barnier (pictured) warned that the EU expected “to be better understood and respected” by the UK if a Brexit agreement was to be struck between the two sides.

The statement from the bloc’s negotiator follows the latest round of trade talks with his UK counterpart, David Frost.

Both sides had been hoping to break the deadlock that has stymied discussions so far.

“Our goal was to get negotiations successfully and quickly on a trajectory to reach an agreement. However, after four days of discussions, serious divergences remain,” Barnier said.

This week also marked the beginning of five weeks of “intensified” talks with the bloc.

Little progress had been made in the previous five rounds of trade negotiations.

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Prime minister Boris Johnson and his EU counterpart Ursula von der Leyen held a high-level meeting in June, aimed at establishing common ground to break the deadlock.

Barnier said on Thursday that, following that meeting, the EU “sought to inject new dynamics in the talks.”

“The EU side had listened carefully to UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s statements in recent weeks, in particular, his request to reach a political agreement quickly, and his red lines,” he said.

“The EU engaged constructively, as we had already done during the fourth round of negotiations in June.”

But Barnier warned that the EU will continue to insist on “parallel progress” during the talks, and said it needed “equivalent engagement” from the United Kingdom.

Frost said on Twitter ahead of the talks that he hoped to “make genuine and rapid progress towards an agreement”.

However, he cautioned that UK sovereignty over its laws, courts, and fishing waters was “not up for discussion.”

Both sides have only until the end of December 2020 to agree a trade deal, a timetable experts say is almost unheard of.

Tuesday marked the deadline for the agreement of any extension to the negotiating timetable, meaning that, unless a deal is agreed, the UK will crash out of the transition period without a trade accord.

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