Thursday

21st Oct 2021

Brexit 'deadlock' prevents move to trade negotiations

  • Davis (l) and Barnier (r) at their joint press conference at the end of the fifth round of talks (Photo: European Commission)

EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said Thursday (12 October) that the fifth round of talks with the UK ended in a "deadlock" over the divorce bill and that he would not propose to EU leaders next week to move talks onto the trade phase.

Barnier told journalists in a joint press conference with UK Brexit minister David Davis that talks on the financial settlement had only been technical this week, and the UK has not spelled out what earlier commitments it would pay for.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"We've reached a state of deadlock which is very disturbing for thousands of project promoters and taxpayers," he said, referring to the projects that depend on EU funding and the taxpayers who foot the bill for that budget.

Say no go

Barnier also said he would be not recommend to the European Council next week that talks on trade and future relations to begin, because there has been no sufficient progress in talks so far.

At the centre of the deadlock – a phrase UK officials were reluctant to use – is that the EU wants to see guarantees on what the UK is willing to pay, while the UK wants the EU to move first by beginning talks on the future before London reveals its hand on the money issue.

British prime minister Theresa May said last month in her keynote Florence speech that the EU countries should not pay more or receive less from the EU budget after Brexit, and said commitments made by the UK as a member would be honoured.

However, that commitment has not yet been spelled out by UK negotiators.

Despite Barnier's assessment of insufficient progress, Davis said the UK would still like EU leaders next week to give a mandate to Barnier to "broaden the negotiation" and begin talks on the two-year transition period proposed by May in Florence.

Barnier's negotiating mandate would have to be tweaked by the EU leaders to be able for him to negotiate transition.

While that is unlikely to happen, Barnier has been pushing member states for making a gesture towards the UK by pledging to start discussing their positions on transition within the EU-27. However, several member states oppose this.

Barnier has not reveal if he would press EU countries to begin "scoping" the transition.

The French politician did offer one olive branch to the UK negotiators, who are seemingly preparing to blame the EU for not being flexible enough with the sequencing of the talks.

'Progress is possible' olive branch

"We are not asking the UK to make concessions," Barnier said. "With political will, decisive progress is within our grasp within the next two months."

"Over the next few weeks I will explore the way forward, if there is the necessary will, ways of getting out of this deadlock we found ourselves in on the financial issues with the view of making sufficient progress by the next European Council," he said.

EU leaders will come back to the issue on their December summit, and could decide that the "sufficient progress" threshold has been reached.

Barnier said the EU is determined to reach an agreement: "No deal will be a very bad deal".

Expectations were subdued before talks began earlier this week, with progress also lacking on the border issue in Northern Ireland, and citizens' rights.

On the latter issue differences still remain over the European Court of Justice's role in guaranteeing those rights, family unifications and the exporting of UK benefits.

Brexit talks enter pre-summit round

Brexit talks resume on Monday, but too little progress on issues such as citizens' rights, mean EU leaders unlikely to launch trade negotiations this month.

Agenda

Brexit on EU summit table This Week

A key showdown on the state of Brexit talks, an ECJ ruling on Ukraine's Viktor Yanukovych, and Macron's proposals for the future of the EU, are all on the agenda this week.

Post-Brexit talks in last push until Sunday

The probability of no deal has increased as a last-ditch effort by British prime minister Boris Johnson and EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen did not bridge gaps.

Opinion

What a No Deal Brexit is going to look like

Research by the London School of Economics forecasts that a no-deal Brexit could be three times as bad as the pandemic for the UK economy, writes mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and the president of the Committee of the Regions.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew report reveals bad environmental habits
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImproving the integration of young refugees
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals

Latest News

  1. Dutch lawyers take Frontex to EU court over pushbacks
  2. Polish rule-of-law debate boils over to EU summit
  3. MEPs back EU food reform, despite strong lobbying
  4. EU calls for end to gas price speculation
  5. Romania pushes live-animal exports despite EU criticism
  6. MEPs poised to vote blank cheque for Europol using AI tools
  7. EU re-launches mammoth fiscal debates
  8. Czech politics in limbo over Zeman health crisis

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us