Daily US Times: A Brexit trade deal between the EU and the UK “seems unlikely” at this stage, the bloc’s negotiator Michel Barnier has said.
Speaking after the latest round of talks, he said he was “disappointed” and “concerned”.
His UK counterpart David Frost, who reports directly to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, spoke of “little progress”, amid differences on state aid rules and fisheries policy.
The EU has said it would like to agree on a deal by October so it can be approved by the European Parliament before the post-Brexit transition period expires.
The deadline for the transition period is 31 December and, if a deal has not been secured by that time period, the UK would have to trade with the EU on WTO (World Trade Organization) terms, which means most goods from the UK would be subject to tariffs until a free trade deal was ready to be brought in.
The UK has said it will not extend talks if a deal cannot be reached by the December deadline.
Mr Frost said in a statement released after the seventh round of talks, that the EU had made it “unnecessarily difficult” to make progress by insisting that differences over state aid and fisheries have to be resolved before “substantive work can be done in any other area of the negotiation, including on legal texts”.
The UK has presented the EU with a draft legal text for a free-trade agreement in a bid to break the deadlock.
Mr Frost said the UK was seeking a deal which “ensures we regain sovereign control of our own laws, borders, and waters”.
He said: “When the EU accepts this reality in all areas of the negotiation, it will be much easier to make progress.”
A senior negotiating official of the UK added that a deal was “still possible but not that easy to get there”.
They also said it was “frustrating” that the EU “says Brexit means Brexit… yet they want us to continue with arrangements as though we were still [an EU] member”.
“Frustrating that they want us to move towards their position on fishing and state aid before doing anything else.”
Mr Barnier accused the UK side of “wasting valuable time” while speaking at a press briefing in Brussels, suggesting the draft text was “useful” but downplaying its significance in reaching any agreement.
He said: “Too often this week it felt as if we were going backwards more than forwards.”
“Given the short time left, what I said in London in July remains true, today at this stage, an agreement between the UK and EU seems unlikely.”
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