Barnier says ‘serious divergences’ remain in Brexit talks
A round of intensified Brexit talks ended on Thursday with both sides warning of remaining big differences but they committed to continue negotiations next week in London.
The meetings in Brussels were the first held face-to-face since the coronavirus shutdown, with hopes high that progress would be made.
“Our goal was to get negotiations successfully and quickly on a trajectory to reach an agreement,” Barnier said in a statement.
“However, after four days of discussions, serious divergences remain,” he added.
More hopefully, the former French minister added: “We continue to believe that an agreement is possible and in everyone’s interest.”
Britain’s chief negotiator David Frost closely mirrored Barnier’s statement, warning that “significant differences” remain with the European Union.
But Frost added: “We remain committed to working hard to find an early understanding on the principles underlying an agreement.”
The talks this week and next are being held in a more limited format than earlier rounds in hopes that a more personal encounter can deliver a breakthrough.
Signalling a willingness to not disrupt the talks, Barnier and Frost coordinated the release of their statements and no meetings with the press were planned by either side.
Britain left the EU on January 30 and a post-Brexit transition period during which it still benefits from de facto EU membership comes to an end on December 31.
Without a new agreement, the two sides would see ties reduced to minimum standards set by the World Trade Organization with high tariffs, quotas and serious disruptions to business.
London is pushing hard to agree on the broad outlines of the trade deal this summer to give businesses clarity well before the end of the year.
The EU is less pressed for time and believes that necessary ratification by the European Parliament and other member states would require a deal to be done by late October.
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