LONDON — EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said he was “disappointed” by another week of stalemate in Brexit talks, warning that at this stage a deal does not look likely, as the U.K. side accused the EU of intransigence on key sticking points.
David Frost, the U.K.’s chief negotiator, shared Barnier’s assessment, saying “little progress” had been made and accused Brussels of refusing to move ahead with the talks unless the U.K. backs down and accepts the EU’s position on state aid rules and fisheries.
A further round of negotiations has been scheduled in London for the second week in September but Barnier gave a gloomy assessment of the two sides’ chances of reaching an accord, even one that achieved the kind of minimalist free-trade agreement the U.K. is seeking.
“Those who were hoping for negotiation to move swiftly forward this week will have been disappointed,” Barnier said Friday morning, the end of the seventh formal round of negotiations. “And unfortunately I too am frankly, disappointed and concerned and surprised, as well, I must say, because the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson told us in June, that he wished to speed up a negotiating process during the summer.”
In a statement issued as Barnier was speaking, Frost said laid the blame for the hold-up at the EU’s door.
“We have had useful discussions this week but there has been little progress,” he said. “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.”
Barnier confirmed reports that the U.K. had presented EU negotiators with draft legal texts this week, but said that they had simply set out pre-existing positions with slight amendments.
On perhaps the thorniest area of disagreement — the U.K.’s approach to state aid and subsidies — Barnier insisted that achieving a so-called level playing field between the U.K. and EU was “a non-negotiable precondition to grant access to our market of 450m citizens, given the U.K.’s geographic proximity and intensity of our economic exchanges.”
“Today at this stage an agreement between the U.K. and the EU remains unlikely,” he said. “I simply do not understand why we are wasting valuable time.”