In a swipe at British officials, the European Union’s chief negotiator posted a picture of himself in a London playing field, in a reference to the tussle over future EU-UK common standards. The Frenchman said: “Short break from intense EU-UK negotiations in London. “Went looking for level playing fields…”
The UK and EU have been failed to make a breakthrough in the wrangling over the bloc’s demands for fair competition clauses.
Brussels wants to keep Britain tied to its rulebook for state subsidies, taxation, environmental standards and workers’ rights.
Of the bloc’s demands, a UK source said: “We have a different view from the EU on what is appropriate on level playing field issues.
“We have been clear that we can look at common principles for our different subsidy systems and perhaps even at the ability to act if a major subsidy genuinely distorts trade.
Michel Barnier mocks UK negotiators with picture of ‘level playing field’
Michel Barnier visits Regent’s Park during Brexit talks
“What we can’t agree to are arrangements which would require us to operate systems of laws equivalent to the EU’s and make us pay a penalty if we moved away from them.
“We need policy space to decide what is in the UK’s interest in the future. That is the very essence of what Brexit is about.”
The wrangling over the EU-UK trade and security agreement is set to continue over the weekend with high-level contacts between Mr Barnier and Lord Frost, the Prime Minister’s Brexit envoy.
The pair have failed to make a breakthrough ahead of a fresh deadline demand by Brussels.
Lord Frost and Michel Barnier have been holding Brexit talks in London
EU figures have called for an agreement to be concluded in time for a leaders’ summit on November 19.
Mr Barnier’s official spokesman: “Intensive talks are ongoing in London as we speak. We are working hard for a deal. Talks will continue in London over the weekend and will take place in Brussels next week.”
Senior sources in Brussels have accused British negotiators of blocking chances of a breakthrough by withdrawing possible compromises.
“Nothing has changed,” one EU diplomat fumed.
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Lord Frost is the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator
The diplomat said chances of a no-deal Brexit are rising unless progress is made ahead of the EU’s leaders’ videoconference on November 19.
The source said: “The deal will have to be done in Brussels next week, otherwise there is no deal.”
Earlier today Michael Gove told the House of Commons “progress is being made, but divergences remain”.
The Cabinet Office minster added: “The UK has already shown a great degree of flexibility in these negotiations, but it is important also that the European Union shows flexibility too.
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“In particular, there needs to be a full recognition that we are sovereign equals. And any attempt to continue to tie the UK into EU processes or to extend EU jurisdiction by other means would be quite wrong.”
And Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said: “Talks are continuing in London and the negotiators are working hard to bridge the still significant gaps that remain.
“Time is in short supply and there are still significant gaps that remain.”