The third round of EU-U.K. talks on their future relationship ended Friday with “very little progress” made, according to U.K. chief negotiator David Frost — and that view was echoed by the EU’s Michel Barnier.
In a statement, Frost said the “major obstacle” to a deal with the EU remains the bloc’s “insistence” on the U.K. abiding by EU laws and standards in exchange for access to its single market — the so-called level playing field. The U.K. continues to oppose this demand, arguing Brussels does not require this of other countries it has signed free-trade deals with, such as Canada.
“As soon as the EU recognises that we will not conclude an agreement on that basis, we will be able to make progress,” Frost said in the statement.
Shortly after, EU chief Brexit negotiator Barnier said although this round clarified a number of “useful points,” for example on trade in goods, there was no real progress on topics such as governance, fisheries or level playing field provisions.
At a press conference, Barnier said that when it comes to the level playing field, “the U.K. hasn’t entered into a real discussion.”
“We are not going to bargain away our European values to the benefit of the British economy,” Barnier said. “Economic and trade fair play is not for sale. It is not a ‘nice to have,’ it is a ‘must have.’
“We are also disappointed by the lack of ambition of the United Kingdom in other fields, which are not at the heart of the negotiations but are still important and symbolical,” Barnier said. He referred to the role of the European Parliament and the British parliament in the implementation of the deal on the future relations.
On fisheries, Frost said both negotiating teams had “useful discussions,” but the “EU continues to insist on fisheries arrangements and access to UK fishing waters in a way that is incompatible with our future status as an independent coastal state.”
“We are fully committed to agreeing fishing provisions in line with the Political Declaration, but we cannot agree arrangements that are manifestly unbalanced and against the interests of the UK fishing industry,” Frost added. “It is hard to understand why the EU insists on an ideological approach which makes it more difficult to reach a mutually beneficial agreement.”
Frost added that a deal on a comprehensive free-trade agreement is within reach, alongside individual agreements on issues such as law enforcement, nuclear energy and aviation. In these areas, both sides have put forward full legal texts and there is “clearly a good understanding between negotiators,” he said.
The fourth round of talks is scheduled to start on June 1. The U.K. government said it intends to make public all of its draft legal texts next week.