The EU’s chief negotiator has said that progress between the bloc and the UK in the post-Brexit trade talks has thus far been “disappointing”.
Michel Barnier said that despite having set such a tight timeline for the talks, the UK had failed to move on a number of key issues.
Speaking at a press conference in Brussels, Barnier said: “[The UK] has imposed this very rigorous calendar, exceptional for such an important negotiation.
“[It] cannot impose this very short calendar for negotiations and at the same time not move, not progress on certain subjects that are important for the European Union”.
A UK government spokesperson agreed that “limited progress [had been] made in bridging the gaps between us and the EU”.
They added that “detail of the EU’s offer on goods trade falls well short of recent precedent in FTAs it has agreed with other sovereign countries”.
“This considerably reduces the practical value of the zero tariff zero quota aspiration we both share”.
“We will not make progress on the so called “level playing field” and the governance provisions until the EU drops its insistence on imposing conditions on the UK which are not found in the EU’s other trade agreements and which do not take account of the fact that we have left the EU as an independent state”.
The UK has until the end of June to extend the transition period, which is due to expire on 31 December, but ministers have thus far been adamant that it will not change.
However, City A.M. reported earlier this week that civil servants in the negotiating team are increasingly frustrated that the government refuses to countenance the idea of an extension, while political appointees are keen to press home the UK’s departure.
Barnier said that there were four areas where there had been a lack of progress, including questions of UK access to the single market, fishing, and justice.
He added that though the UK had indicated it was keen to make progress by the June deadline, it had only been willing to do so on a limited number of issues.
“We need to make progress on all issues in parallel. We need to find solutions for the most difficult topics. The UK cannot refuse to extend the transition and at the same time slow down discussions on important areas,” he said.
The next round of talks are due to be held during the weeks beginning 11 May and 1 June.