Brexit talks are at an impasse: EU sources

Оn the fundamental goals the differences are enormous, political push is missing

Negotiations between the European Union and Britain over new trade arrangements from next year are at an impasse due to disagreements and the coronavirus crisis, diplomats and officials in Brussels told Reuters. Halted when the epidemic started, the EU’s tortuous Brexit talks with PM Boris Johnson’s government were renewed a week ago but have quickly hit snags, the sources said.

“We are at an impasse,” said one diplomat following the negotiations aimed at agreeing new trading terms between Britain and the 27 member states of the bloc from 2021 when London’s current, status-quo transition period after Brexit ends.

“There are plenty of minor technical details where we could find solutions. But on the fundamental goals each side is trying to achieve - the differences are enormous. Things cannot move without a political push. And it’s missing.”

After last week’s talks, chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier warned that London had to budge to bridge gaps for a deal to be sealed in the little time available.

Johnson’s spokesman countered on Monday that the London team was ready to keep talking “but that doesn’t make us any more likely to agree to the EU’s proposals in areas where they are not taking into account the UK’s status as an independent state.”

More negotiations are due to take place by early June. EU officials note there is still time for London and Brussels to meet a deadline at the end of that month to agree on extending negotiations beyond the end of the year. But Johnson, who had a life-threatening bout of COVID-19 and is under fire at home for his handing of the outbreak, has ruled that out.

“Maybe we should just believe him when he says he won’t extend the transition period,” said an EU official involved in the negotiations. “In which case, we are a bit puzzled as to what comes next ... The tight schedule is even more tricky now with coronavirus, there is no space to waste time.”

 

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