The EU has only a few months left to clarify future relations with Britain. The clock ticked, repeated their negotiator Barnier. But the clocks in Britain are obviously different.
Brussels / London (dpa) - One-week negotiations on a trade pact with Great Britain after Brexit have made little progress in the eyes of the European Union.
"I regret that and it worries me," said EU negotiator Michel Barnier after the video talks with British negotiators. The goal of an agreement by the end of the year is still achievable, but only with the political will of both sides.
From the British side, it was said that the round of negotiations was "comprehensive and constructive". However, despite promising agreement on core issues of a free trade agreement, there has been limited progress. Both sides blamed each other.
Britain left the EU on January 31. There will be a transition phase until the end of 2020, so that hardly anything has changed in everyday life. Great Britain is still part of the EU internal market and customs union, adheres to EU rules and pays into the EU budget. The "economic Brexit" does not come until the end of the year, said Barnier. An intelligent solution is needed to avoid a new negative shock for the economy and consumers after the Corona crisis.
Barnier took a grim record. The goal set by both sides to make decisive progress by June "was only partially achieved at the end of this week," he said.
Barnier called the negotiations on fair competitive conditions, the so-called level playing field, particularly disappointing. The EU wants commitments to largely harmonize environmental, social and subsidy rules on both sides so that Britain cannot give its economy an unfair advantage. The EU promises trade in goods without tariffs and quantity limits. "Great Britain has not made a substantial contribution this week," said Barnier. Without a "level playing field" there would be no ambitious trade agreement.
London, on the other hand, blames the sluggish negotiations near Brussels. The EU does not want to offer Great Britain the same conditions for goods trading as other third countries. The requirements for fishing and level playing field are also not acceptable, it said.
Barnier mentioned as further sticking points the establishment of common standards in human rights, rule of law, climate protection, data protection, as are common for the EU in all international agreements. From EU circles it was said that Great Britain only wanted to negotiate topics in its interest, with the others the British negotiators only listened politely. However, the EU wants to make progress on all relevant issues by June. Until then, two more rounds of negotiations are planned.
June is important because the option to extend the negotiation period will expire. The exit contract stipulates that the transition phase can be extended once by one or two years. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson categorically rejects this because he wants to free his country from EU rules and contributions as soon as possible. The EU, however, is open to an extension, said Barnier.
The Brexit representative of the European Parliament, David McAllister, told the German press agency: "It is unfortunate that no concrete results could be achieved in this round of negotiations." That must now be done quickly. "June will be crucial in order to assess in detail the status of the negotiations so far and, if necessary, to agree on an extension of the transition phase beyond December 31, 2020."
Negotiations had started in March. Shortly thereafter, Barnier announced a coronavirus infection and his British colleague David Frost also went into quarantine.