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PM’s negotiator hits back at EU’s stance to Brexit talks after Brussels summit

Written by on 15 October 2020

Boris Johnson’s negotiator has accused the EU of taking an “unusual approach” to trade talks after the bloc’s leaders called on the UK to “make the necessary moves” for a post-Brexit deal.

Lord Frost, the prime minister’s EU adviser, hit back at the stance taken by the EU’s national leaders at a Brussels summit on Thursday.

In a series of tweets, Lord Frost said he was “disappointed” by the conclusions from the summit and “surprised” the bloc is “no longer committed to working ‘intensively’ to reach a future partnership”.

He added: “Also surpised by suggestion that to get an agreement all future moves must come from UK.

“It’s an unusual approach to conducting a negotiation.”

Lord Frost revealed that Mr Johnson will deliver his own reaction to the EU summit conclusions on Friday, with the prime minister previously having set the Brussels gathering as a deadline for agreeing a deal.

Image:
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was forced to leave the summit

At their gathering in the Belgian capital, EU leaders had called on the UK “to make the necessary moves to make an agreement possible”.

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They also noted their “concern” that progress in ongoing UK-EU negotiations was “still not sufficient for an agreement to be reached”.

The leaders agreed that the 27 member states and EU institutions should “step up their work on preparedness and readiness at all levels and for all outcomes”, ahead of the possibility of the Brexit transition period ending on 31 December without a deal on a future relationship.

The leaders invited the European Commission to “give timely consideration to unilateral and time-limited contingency measures that are in the EU’s interest” due to the prospect of a no-deal outcome.

European Council President, speaking at a news conference after the leaders’ discussions on Brexit, said the bloc was “100% united”.

“We are united and determined to reach an agreement but not at any cost,” he added.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, echoed that stance and told the news conference that differences still remained between the two sides on so-called level playing field commitments, issues of governance, and fisheries.

He added that the EU was ready to continue negotiations “until the last possible day”.

“We want to give these discussions every chance of being successful so that we secure an agreement,” he said.

The gathering of EU leaders in Brussels was interrupted by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen having to pull out of the summit after a member of her staff tested positive for coronavirus.

She posted on Twitter: “I have just been informed that a member of my front office has tested positive to Covid-19 this morning.

“I myself have tested negative. However as a precaution I am immediately leaving the European Council to go into self-isolation.”

On the eve of Thursday’s EU summit, Mr Johnson held a phone call with Ms von der Leyen and Mr Michel.

During the call, the prime minister “noted the desirability of a deal” but “expressed his disappointment that more progress had not been made over the past two weeks”, a Downing Street spokesperson said.

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On Thursday, Ireland’s foreign affairs minister, Simon Coveney, said he believed “a deal can be done” but admitted the UK and EU remained “miles apart” on the issue of fisheries.

“There’s a lot of difficult work to do and I think it is going to take weeks rather than days to finalise this,” he told an Irish parliamentary committee meeting.

“I hope that by the start of November that we will be in the space of a deal in sight.”

In a warning to London, Mr Coveney added that the EU was “not going to sell out its fishing industry to get a trade deal on Brexit”.

“Both sides need to understand that,” he said. “Fishing won’t be sacrificed to get a deal here.”