The UK and the EU are set to resume negotiations on their post-Brexit relationship in a third week-long round of talks starting Monday.
The talks will begin at 3:00 PM Belgian time with a "plenary session" video conference involving the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, and his British counterpart, David Frost.
A Downing Street spokesman on Friday reiterated the need to move forward in a constructive manner and the UK's commitment to concluding a free trade agreement with the EU.
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However, the last round of talks, at the end of April, left uncertainty as to whether the UK and the EU would be able to reach an agreement by the end of the year, when the UK's transition period finishes.
The British, who formally left the EU on 31 January, entered a transition period until the end of the year, during which they continue to apply EU standards.
Barnier regretted that the United Kingdom did not want to make a serious commitment on a number of fundamental points. This sentiment was echoed by EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan in the Irish press. "There is no real sign that our British friends are approaching the negotiations with a plan to succeed. I hope I am wrong, but I don't think so," he told public broadcasting group RTE.
Negotiators are theoretically due to decide in June whether or not to extend the transition period, in order to give themselves more time to negotiate. But London categorically rejects this idea, even though the coronavirus outbreak has disrupted the timing of the talks, as well as their form - exclusively by videoconference.
According to a diplomatic source, Barnier explained to member states this week that the United Kingdom was prepared to make progress only in areas where it has interests such as transport, services and trade in goods, but that it is reluctant "to engage in areas of importance to the EU," such as fisheries or what he refers to as a "level playing field."
The Brussels Times