Brexiteers say EU is making achieving deal ‘difficult’ despite claiming it would be ‘easiest in history’

European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and David Frost

European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and David Frost - Credit: POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Brexiteers in the UK government have accused the EU of making post-Brexit negotiations 'unnecessarily difficult' despite claiming previously it would be one of the easiest in history.

The latest round of talks took place in Brussels, with officials trying to agree a deal before the transition period ends on December 31.

After a breakfast meeting between the top negotiators as part of the seventh round of talks, the government's chief Brexit negotiator David Frost said: 'We have had useful discussions this week but there has been little progress.'

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Frost blamed the EU position on state aid and fishing policy as being a key stumbling block.

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'The EU is still insisting not only that we must accept continuity with EU state aid and fisheries policy, but also that this must be agreed before any further substantive work can be done in any other area of the negotiation, including on legal texts,' he said in a statement.

'This makes it unnecessarily difficult to make progress. There are other significant areas which remain to be resolved and, even where there is a broad understanding between negotiators, there is a lot of detail to work through.

'Time is short for both sides.'

Meanwhile, the EU's Michel Barnier told a press conference said Britain was wasting time.

'Too often this week it felt as if we were going backwards more than forwards,' he told a press conference.

'Given the short time left, what I said in London in July remains true. Today at this stage, an agreement between the UK and the European Union seems unlikely.

'I simply do not understand why we are wasting valuable time.'

He said 'we have made no progress whatsoever' on the key issues of fishing policy, and said they 'still struggle to agree on the necessary guarantees to protect citizens' fundamental rights' in law enforcement.

He also reiterated the EU's committance to the level playing field to prevent businesses on one side undercutting their rivals on the other with lower workers' rights or environmental protections.

The two sides are currently in a transition period where the UK follows the EU's rules and has access to the single market, but this will lapse at the end of the year.

Both parties have said any deal needs to be concluded by October in order to be ratified.

In 2017 one of the leading voices in the Vote Leave campaign, Dr Liam Fox, said a free trade agreement with the EU should be 'one of the easiest in human history' because our rules and laws are already the same.

'The only reason we wouldn't come to a free and open agreement is because politics gets in the way of economics,' the former minister said.

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