The European Union’s chef negotiator in the talks on the future relationship with the United Kingdom today said he was “disappointed and worried” at the lack of progress in the talks.
Michel Barnier was speaking after a seventh round of talks between the EU and the UK on the trade relationship between the two parties when the UK finally leaves the Union in December.
“The negotiations have not led to sufficient progress,” Barnier told a press conference on Friday. “I am disappointed and worried. “Too often this week it felt as if we were going backwards more than forwards, given the short time left,” he said.
“I simply do not understand why we are wasting valuable time.”
The two sets of negotiators were meeting after a summer break, as the deadline fast approaches. According to Barnier, a substantive agreement must be reached by October, to allow time for the technical and juridical details to be sorted out. Then the European Parliament has to approve the agreement.
If all of that cannot be achieved by the end of December, Britain will “crash out” of the EU without an agreement. The country will then find its trade governed by World Trade Organisation rules, on the same terms as many other countries dealing with the EU, and with no preferential treatment in any area whatsoever.
Barnier said he was “astonished” at the lack of any sense of urgency on the part of the British prime minister, Boris Johnson. In June Johnson had promised his government would pick up the pace of talks on certain matters crucial to Britain, including EU fisheries access to UK waters, as well as who has jurisdiction in the case of disputes.
Meanwhile the British negotiator, David Frost, put the blame for the lack of progress on the EU and its insistence on settling matters of jurisdiction, state aid for business and fisheries before moving on to anything else.
“This makes it unnecessarily difficult to make progress,” Frost said in a statement.
“There are other significant areas which remain to be resolved and, even where there is a broad understanding between negotiators, there is a lot of detail to work through. Time is short for both sides.”