Politics

What do you WANT?! Barnier blows top in private EU meeting as Boris refuses to budge

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The Brussels diplomat insisted UK counterpart Lord Frost has asked for much more generous terms, and some that are only available with EU membership. In a private meeting, Mr Barnier expressed frustration that No10 has claimed the deal on offer from the EU is a “low-value” trade agreement. Before walking out of talks last month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “There is still an agreement to be had.  We will continue to work hard in September to achieve it.  It is one based on our reasonable proposal for a standard free trade agreement like the one the EU has agreed with Canada and so many others.”

Mr Barnier’s intervention came after both sides failed to break the deadlock after almost two weeks’ of intensified wrangling over the post-Brexit deal.

The Frenchman told MEPs that he had shown a genuine willingness to compromise but this had not been reciprocated by the British side.

He said the UK’s refusal to move towards the bloc’s position had prolonged the deadlock in the row over access to Britain’s fishing grounds and future common standards.

Mr Barnier said the talks are currently “not on a trajectory” to get a deal unless the UK changes its approach.

Lord Frost, the Prime Minister’s Brexit envoy, said “divergences” remain on the key sticking points in the talks.

But he claimed that progress had been made on putting pen to paper on the legal text.

Lord Frost said: “We’ve just finished two weeks of intensive talks with the EU. 

“Progress made, but I agree with Michel Barnier that wide divergences remain on some core issues. We continue to work to find solutions that fully respect UK sovereignty.”

In a jibe at Britain’s claim of only wanting a Canada-style trade agreement, an EU diplomat said: “This is not a flimsy trade agreement. This is serious stuff.

“If all you want is a Canada-style deal, then only ask for that.”

And Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal market commissioner, insisted the UK would have to play by the bloc’s rules if it wanted to maintain trade.

MUST READ: Barnier blocks Boris showdown with EU chiefs to unlock Brexit talks

He said: “We are extremely clear on the conditions and the access to our European market.”

It also emerged that Mr Barnier blocked a “mass bargaining session” between Boris Johnson and EU leaders, such as Angela Merkel and Ursula von der Leyen.

The EU negotiator said the Prime Minister wanted to have a “big tug of war” of as many as 30 unresolved issues in the trade talks.

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Mr Barnier warned such a high stakes showdown would see Britain play off access to its coastal waters against the bloc’s demand for a regulatory level playing field.

One Brussels source said Mr Barnier was furious with continuous attempts to sideline him in favour of more lenient EU leaders.

“I keep telling them that’s not going to happen,” The bloc’s Brexit chief said, according to sources.

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