25th Jul 2021

EU's Brexit move could end deadlock in talks

  • The UK and EU chief negotiators, David Frost (left) and Michel Barnier, could restart talks this week (Photo: European Commission)

The EU on Monday (19 October) made a concession that raised hopes it could unlock stalled talks with the UK on the EU-UK relations by the end of the year, during the all-important political theatrics of the endgame of the post-Brexit talks.

The UK, however, quickly poured cold water on those efforts.

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London was irked by the conclusion of the EU summit last week , which demanded that the UK moves on key hurdles on the substance of the negotiations, such as fair completion and fisheries.

It all but abandoned trade talks, and British prime minister Boris Johnson's office said talks with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier this week would only make sense if the bloc was willing to discuss legal texts without the UK being required to move on all key issues.

After a phone conversation with his British counterpart, David Frost, Barnier said he told Frost on Monday that "the EU remains available to intensify talks in London this week, on all subjects, and based on legal texts".

"We now wait for the UK's reaction," he said in a tweet - without addressing the EU's earlier demands on the necessary moves by the UK.

With this, the EU for the first time signalled that it is ready to draft legal texts of the agreement, a key demand of London, which has been pushing back against the EU's long-standing demands.

But Frost said it was not enough.

"Noted his [Barnier] proposal to intensify work, as we have been asking. But the EU still needs to make a fundamental change in approach to the talks and make clear it has done so," the British negotiator tweeted.

London wants the EU to also move on the key issues blocking the future relations deal.

Earlier at a debate in the British parliament, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove called the EU's move "constructive".

"It has been reported that there has been a constructive move on the part of the European Union and I welcome that," Gove told parliament.

"It is the case that my colleague David Frost was in conversation with Michel Barnier and I believe it is the case that Michel Barnier has agreed both to the intensification of talks and also to working on legal texts," he added before Frost's own comments.

Earlier on Monday, EU commissioner Maros Sefcovic was in London for talks with Gove on the implementation of the divorce deal.

"The European Union is ready to work until the last minute for a good agreement for both parties," Sefcovic said on the future relationship deal.

He will meet with Gove mid-November about the outstanding issues on the withdrawal agreement.

"We agreed until the end of the year intensify cooperation resolve all outstanding issues," Sefcovic told reporters in London.

In a statement, he said that there is "political will" on both sides to work out remaining details on guaranteeing citizens' rights and the Irish border.

He added that "much work remains to be done by the UK", particularly on the rules regarding the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

In the meantime, the UK parliament's upper house has been discussing the controversial internal market bill, that would allow aspects of the already-agreed withdrawal agreement to be superseded with regards to the Irish border.

The EU has said it considers the bill a breach of international law, and a move that undermines trust during crucial negotiators.

EU tells UK to move if it wants post-Brexit deal

After their discussions on Brexit, where phones were not allowed in the meeting room, EU leaders called on the Commission to draw up contingency measures in case there is no deal.

EU warns London over undermining Brexit agreement

While a new internal market bill reported to "override" the legal force of the Brexit withdrawal agreement on critical issues, the UK government also set a surprise 15 October deadline to agree a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU.

EU won't accept UK trade deal 'at any price', Barnier warns

Talks on the future EU-UK trade deal will start next Monday - but tensions are already high over the EU's efforts to stop the UK undercutting the bloc's standards and London's wobbling position on Northern Ireland.

Safety fears suspend work for EU staff at Northern Irish ports

The issue will be discussed on Wednesday at a video conference between EU Commission vice president Maroš Šefcovic, British cabinet minister Michael Gove, Northern Ireland's first minister Arlene Foster, and deputy first minister Michelle O'Neill.

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