‘Significant divergences persist’: EU delivers stark warning as Brexit talks hit another dead end

Michel Barnier arrives at 10 Downing Street to kick-start another round of Brexit negotiation; Kirst

Michel Barnier arrives at 10 Downing Street to kick-start another round of Brexit negotiation; Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire - Credit: PA

The EU has delivered a stark warning over the fate of Brexit talks after 'informal' discussions between Michel Barnier and David Frost ended in London without clear progress.

The European Commission said there remained 'significant divergences' between Brussels and the UK on a post-Brexit trade deal following the meeting in Downing Street.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier visited Boris Johnson's Europe adviser, David Frost, on Tuesday in an attempt to inject some movement into Brexit trade talks.

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But Brussels said there were still issues blocking a deal.

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'A number of meetings took place in London this week, as set out in the addendum of the terms of reference,' said European Commission spokesman Daniel Farrie at a briefing with journalists on Thursday.

'The EU is acting constructively and in good faith, as Michel Barnier pointed out earlier this week.

'We are working hard to overcome the significant divergences that remain between us.

'Meetings will continue in Brussels next week and the next round of negotiations will take place in the week of July 20 in London.'

When prodded about over whether the talks were useful, Farrie added: 'My answer will be very, very short there. We are working towards an agreement.'

Barnier took part in a round of meetings on Wednesday following a 'nice dinner' of halibut in Number 10 on Tuesday night.

He said Brussels were 'working hard for a fair agreement' with the UK, including on the key sticking points of fisheries and the 'level playing field' arrangements designed to prevent the UK undercutting the EU by lowering standards and increasing state subsidies.

The fringe talks came after the prime minister told German chancellor Angela Merkel the UK would be prepared to walk away without a trade deal at the end of the year.

The prime minister's official spokesman told a Westminster briefing that the Downing Street dinner had provided a 'constructive opportunity for David (Frost) and Michel Barnier to meet in a more informal way ahead of the specialised sessions'.

The official said the pair had been keen to discuss 'goods and services, fisheries, governance, the level-playing field and law enforcement'.

Frost is now due to reciprocate and travel to Brussels for further discussions next week before formal negotiations resume in London in little over a week's time.

Johnson has been adamant that he will not allow the discussions to drag on into the autumn, arguing that British businesses and citizens need certainty on the way forward before then.

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