No 10 says Brexit deal can be achieved during coronavirus crisis ‘if EU leaders intervene’

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) meets with German chancellor Angela Merkel (2-R) and British pr

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) meets with German chancellor Angela Merkel (2-R) and British prime minister Boris Johnson (R) at the United Nations headquarters. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP). - Credit: AFP via Getty Images

Downing Street is insisting a Brexit deal can be achieved during the coronavirus crisis if there political leaders on the EU side intervene.

The European Union's chief negotiator Michel Barnier last week described progress in the trade talks as 'disappointing' and accused the UK side of a failure to engage with Brussels on key issues.

But No 10 indicated that the failure was on the EU side and said Barnier's political masters need to move the negotiations forward.

Downing Street accused the EU side of failing to accept the 'political realities' of the UK's newly independent status.

'We are ready to keep talking but that does not make us any more likely to agree the EU's proposals in areas where they are not taking into account the UK's status as an independent state.

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'All we are seeking is an agreement based on precedent which respects the sovereignty of both sides.

'Clearly there will need to be political movement on the EU side to move negotiations forward, particularly on fisheries and level playing field issues, in order to help find a balanced solution which reflects the political realities on both sides.'

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There is frustration in Westminster about the mandate, signed off by EU leaders, which gives Barnier his negotiating objectives.

Key stumbling blocks include access to UK waters for EU fishing boats and the 'level playing field' demands which are designed to prevent unfair competition between the neighbouring powers on issues including workers' rights, environmental protection and state subsidies.

'What we want is an agreement which is based on precedent, what the EU is seeking to do is impose conditions upon us which it has not required in other free trade agreements which it has agreed with sovereign countries around the world,' the prime minister's spokesman said.

The transition period, which kept the UK aligned to the EU's single market and customs union rules to allow trade to flow smoothly after Brexit, expires at the end of the year unless both sides agree to an extension - something Boris Johnson has ruled out.

'We are quite clear that we are leaving the transition period on December 31, we will work with the EU to try to do that with a deal,' the PM's spokesman added.

'But nobody should be in any doubt that the transition period is going to end on December 31.'

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