Tue | Jan 26, 2021

Another week gone, Brexit trade talks remain stuck

Published:Saturday | November 28, 2020 | 12:07 AM
European Commission’s Head of Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom Michel Barnier leaves the Conference Centre in London, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. With less than two months to go before the U.K. exits the EU’s economic orbit, trade deal tal
European Commission’s Head of Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom Michel Barnier leaves the Conference Centre in London, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. With less than two months to go before the U.K. exits the EU’s economic orbit, trade deal talks resume in London.
Britain's chief negotiator for a post-Brexit trade deal David Frost arrives at Downing Street in London, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Britain's chief negotiator for a post-Brexit trade deal David Frost arrives at Downing Street in London, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
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BRUSSELS (AP):

The European Union (EU) said yesterday that another week of talks with Britain on a new trade deal has gone with barely any progress. Its chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, is heading to London for ever-more pressing weekend negotiations, to avoid chaos when Britain’s trade agreements with the EU end at New Year.

Barnier emerged from a COVID-19 quarantine on Friday and said that, after a week of remote video talks, the “same significant divergences persist”.

The lack of progress is frustrating since the EU had sounded optimistic about a deal last Friday and had committed to be “creative” in its approach during the final stages of the talks. Barnier was on Friday briefing EU member states and the EU parliament, which all have to give their consent to any deal reached with the United Kingdom (UK).

The two sides have reached agreement on a swathe of issues, but remain stuck on EU fishing rights in UK waters, compliance guarantees on any deal reached, and the “level playing field” standards the UK must meet to export into the EU.

The UK split from the EU politically early this year, but remained part of the bloc’s economic embrace during an 11-month transition, as the two sides tried to negotiate a new free-trade deal to take effect January 1.

To reach a deal, the EU will have to curb its demands on fishing, and Britain must agree to some alignment with the bloc’s rules – difficult issues for politicians on both sides.

Britain’s chief negotiator, David Frost, agreed there were still major differences, but said it was worth continuing the talks.

“It is late, but a deal is still possible, and I will continue to talk until it’s clear that it isn’t,” Frost said on Twitter.

“But, for a deal to be possible, it must fully respect UK sovereignty.”