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    Brexit: UK accused of slowing down negotiations

    Credit: Belga

    The European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has accused the United Kingdom of slowing down the Brexit talks.

    Barnier addressed the press on Friday after a week of negotiations, which had been delayed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

    While British negotiator David Frost reiterated that “the government wish not to extend the transition period and that the job could be done by the end of the year,” Barnier accused British negotiators of slowing down the process as they refuse to take a position on several central elements of the discussion.

    The transition period involves the UK temporarily remaining part of the customs union and the single market, despite having politically left the EU at the end of January. The period is currently set to end on 31 December.

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    “The goal of moving towards tangible progress on all subjects in parallel was only very partially achieved during this week’s round,” Barnier said. “The United Kingdom has been unwilling to make serious commitments on a certain number of key issues” that are part of the political declaration linked to the withdrawal treaty.

    Four areas “in which the progress this week was disappointing” were negotiations about a level playing field regarding fair and open competition, the overall governance of the future partnership, justice-related partnership, and fisheries.

    “We cannot agree to make progress on a limited number of subjects, we must make progress on all subjects in parallel,” he asserted. “The United Kingdom cannot refuse to extend the transition period and at the same time slow down the pace of discussions on very important issues.”

    “We agreed with Boris Johnson to hold a high-level conference in June to take stock of the progress,” Barnier said. Before that, two more rounds of negotiations will be held in the weeks of 11 May and 1 June “to make real tangible process across all areas,” he said.

    Jason Spinks
    The Brussels Times