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Brexit negotiators in new bid to unblock trade talks

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European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier pulls down his face mask as he leaves a media conference at on the first of a two-day European Union (EU) summit at the European Council Building in Brussels, on October 15, 2020. – European leaders insisted on October 15 that Britain must implement the terms of its existing Brexit withdrawal treaty, the European Council president said after the first stage of an EU summit. (Photo by Francisco Seco / POOL / AFP)


British and EU negotiators will talk by phone for a second day running Tuesday, to seek a way forward for trade talks after London rejected Brussels’ latest outreach.

European and UK officials said Michel Barnier and his UK counterpart David Frost would speak at around 3:00 pm (1300 GMT).

The British government had warned Barnier not to come to London this week to continue trade talks until Brussels makes a “fundamental change” in its negotiating stance.

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London wants the EU side to confirm that both sides will have to make compromises to find a trade agreement, not just the UK, and wants to start work on a detailed text.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson redelivered that message to his Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis in a phone call on Tuesday, insisting that the EU had “effectively ended” negotiations “by stating they did not want to change their negotiating position”, a spokesman said.

Separately, Johnson’s spokesman told reporters that negotiator Frost needs to see “that this is a genuine negotiation rather than one side being expected to make all of the moves.

“We have said that our door is ajar to resume talks but that can only happen if the EU fundamentally change their approach…” to accept that movement needs to come from their side “as well as the UK”, he said.

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Brussels has promised that it is ready to move on to “legal texts” and discuss the “structure” of the dialogue, but has not moved on its fair competition rules or fish quotas.

Nevertheless, while London insists that trade negotiations are on hold, both sides remain in close daily contact, and European sources expect full talks to resume shortly.

Britain, which left the EU in January but remains bound by most of the bloc’s rules until a transition period ends on December 31, accused Brussels of stalling negotiations.

An EU summit last week infuriated London when European leaders said the British side must make further compromises.

If no deal is found and implemented before December 31, Britain will end up trading with the EU on bare bones WTO regulations, a massive disruption to cross-Channel business.

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