Brexit: UK-EU trade deal looking unlikely, says Michel Barnier
The EU's top Brexit negotiator said on Thursday that a new trade agreement with the UK was looking unlikely due to the country's unwillingness to budge on two key issues.
“By its current refusal to commit to conditions of open and fair competition and to a balanced agreement on fisheries, the UK makes a trade agreement - at this point - unlikely,” Michel Barnier said.
He added that while London fails to change its position on these core issues there was a real risk of negotiations concluding fruitlessly, resulting in a no-deal separation between Britain and the bloc at the end of 2020.
"The time for answers is quickly running out on important areas such as climate, environment, labour and social law'' he added.
While Barnier said headway had been made on some issues this week, he added the two sides were at loggerheads over a deal concerning fisheries and the EU refused to sign off on an accord that would damage its fishing industry.
It came as the UK's chief negotiator David Frost said his country must "face the possibility" that it may not agree a deal on its future relationship with the EU by the end of this year.
Although Frost struck a more positive tone, saying "despite all the difficulties" he still thought a deal could be reached in September.
"We will keep working hard to bridge the gaps and find a way through," he added.
With less than six months to go until the end of the Brexit transition period, the UK must "continue preparing for all possible scenarios" for once that deadline passes, he warned in a statement.
The comments came after the week’s negotiations in London, with Barnier hammering home at a news conference that the "time for answers is quickly running out”.
`Five months remain before Britain’s transition period draws to a close after it formally left the EU in January.
“If we do not reach an agreement on our future partnership, there will be more friction,” Barnier said.