The UK’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost said Friday that progress in Brexit talks with the EU was “limited” but the tone was nevertheless “positive”.
“Progress remains limited but our talks have been positive in tone. Negotiations will continue and we remain committed to a successful outcome,” he said.
Frost added: “We are now at an important moment for these talks. We are close to reaching the limits of what we can achieve through the format of remote formal rounds.
“If we are to make progress, it is clear that we must intensify and accelerate our work. We are discussing with the commission how this can best be done.
“We need to conclude this negotiation in good time to enable people and businesses to have certainty about the trading terms that will follow the end of the transition period at the end of this year, and, if necessary, to allow ratification of any agreements reached.
“For our part, we are willing to work hard to see whether at least the outline of a balanced agreement, covering all issues, can be reached soon.”
Frost’s comments followed those of the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, who said: “This week, there have been no significant areas of progress.”
“I also hope we’ll be able to start meeting face-to-face again by the end of June which is when the next timeline is supposed to be,” he said.
“I think it will work better, it’ll be more effective and easier.”
According to Barnier, the “UK continues to backtrack its commitments of the political agreement” signed by British prime minister Boris Johnson and his 27 EU counterparts last year. Repeating his previous criticisms, he named four areas where he particularly missed the lack of progress: fisheries, competition rules in trade, judicial and law enforcement cooperation, and a general framework on the relationship between the partners.
Barnier also reminded that the UK negotiators had been distancing themselves from Johnson’s commitment on upholding high standards on social affairs, environmental protection, state aid and fiscal regulation.
The EU chief negotiator insisted that the partners needed to finalize the text of their deal before the end of October so that the transition period could terminate in an orderly way on Dec. 31. Barnier underlined that negotiation efforts should be focused the four above-mentioned areas. He said he hopes that the next round of talks may take “face-to-face” at the end of June which “will work better, it’ll be more effective and easier.”
However, he also noted that it was “the substance and not the method” that had resulted in the lack of progress so far. To complete the separation, partners need to agree on the terms of future economic cooperation until the end of this year.
The UK formally left the EU on Jan. 31, and aims to strike a trade deal with the bloc by the end of 2020.