British negotiators have doubled down on their warning to Brussels that they won’t bend and accept its demands for continued fisheries access to the country’s waters.
They also reiterated that officials would continue to reject any attempts by their European Union counterparts to keep Britain tied to aspects of the bloc’s laws and regulations. A source close to the UK negotiating team said: “If they continue to insist on their position on a so-called level playing field and on continuing the Common Fisheries Policy, for example, we are never going to accept that. “Draw your own conclusion from that but I hope they will move on.”
They added: “There are some fundamentals that we are not going to change, we are not going to move on because, not so much that they are negotiation positions, as they are what an independent state does.”
Boris Johnson’s lead negotiator, David Frost, last week held talks with Michel Barnier after negotiations were resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The two sides have been forced to scrap planned face-to-face rounds after both Mr Barnier and Mr Frost fell ill with the virus.
After the Frenchman said the talks had ended with “disappointing progress”, the UK has hit back.
The Government’s negotiators blamed the bloc for the “limited progress” during the first rounds of negotiations on the post-Brexit trade deal.
The source said: “We made limited progress in bridging the gaps between us.
“We agree with Barnier that there is little time, there is the need to make progress.
“What is clear to me is, if we were agreeing a standard Canada-style free trade agreement, we could do it quite quickly with quite a good understanding between the negotiators on the terms of an FTA.
“Of course there are negotiations to be had but people understand each other.
“But what is slowing us up is the EU’s insistence on extra provision, notably the level playing field area, aspects of governance and of course there is no meeting of minds on fisheries.”
Mr Barnier has been pushing to secure the same access to British waters as enjoyed by European fishermen currently.
He has warned that without a firm agreement on fisheries, member states will refuse to endorse a future trading pact with Britain.
The Frenchman last Friday said: “The EU will not agree any future economic partnership that does not include a balanced, sustainable and long-term solution on fisheries – that is crystal clear.”
Mr Barnier also accused Mr Frost of having “failed to engage substantially” on the subject of a regulatory level playing field during the last round of talks.
“The UK did not wish to commit seriously on a number of fundamental points,” he said.
“We need to find solutions on the most difficult topics. The UK cannot refuse to extend transition and at the same time slow down discussions on important areas.”
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