Brexit talks break up early after UK and EU fail to overcome ‘significant differences’

Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier told businesses to revive no-deal Brexit planning; YouTube.

Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier told businesses to revive no-deal Brexit planning; YouTube. - Credit: Archant

The latest round of Brexit talks between the UK and EU have ended a day earlier than expected after both sides failed to overcome 'significant differences'.

Face-to-face talks in Brussels between officials were due to continue into Friday, however, that goal has been dashed after negotiators failed to find compromise over issues like the level playing field, fisheries, and the role of the European Court of Justice after Brexit.

UK chief negotiator David Frost explained: 'We have completed our discussion of the full range of issues in the negotiation in just over three days.

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'The negotiations have been comprehensive and useful. But they have also underlined the significant differences that still remain between us on a number of important issues.'

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Michel Barnier, lead negotiator for the EU, said: 'Our goal was to get negotiations successfully and quickly on a trajectory to reach an agreement. However, after four days of discussions, serious divergences remain.'

Barnier accused Britain of disregarding the EU's own red lines.

'The EU side had listened carefully to UK prime minister Boris Johnson's statements in recent weeks, in particular, his request to reach a political agreement quickly, and his red lines,' he said

'The EU engaged constructively', he continued, '... [And it] expects, in turn, its positions to be better understood and respected in order to reach an agreement. We need an equivalent engagement by the United Kingdom.'

Best for Britain CEO Naomi Smith said the collapse of talks was a 'damning indictment' of both sides' negotiating strategy.

'It is clear that though Britain would be hit hardest, both sides stand to lose from a failure to agree a deal,' she said.

'The UK economy is facing an unprecedented recession right now. In the last two days alone, 12,000 jobs have been cut.'

She added: 'Not agreeing a deal, or agreeing only the silhouette of a proper deal, would be a disaster. It's time for this government to free UK negotiators from the shackles of its red lines and work with the EU to secure the best deal possible.'

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs and Brexit spokesperson Alistair Carmichael warned the UK side were making a 'dog's dinner of the talks'.

He said: 'Last month Boris Johnson asserted that he wanted a Brexit deal by the end of July. But far from putting a tiger in the tank, David Frost appears to be making a dog's dinner of the talks.

'With the impact of coronavirus already weighing heavy on UK business and the economy, we cannot afford for the government to continue posturing on Brexit. They must work to secure a deal so that the UK does not leave the transition period with a bad deal or - even worse - no deal at all.'

A new round of talks are set to begin in London next week.

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