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EU Brexit

EU-UK talks resume in bid to end Brexit stalemate

EU head of negotiation Michel Barnier (R) with UK counterpart David Frost (L), March 2020
EU head of negotiation Michel Barnier (R) with UK counterpart David Frost (L), March 2020 POOL/AFP/File
3 min

The European Union and the United Kingdom embark on a fourth round of Brexit negotiations on Tuesday amid growing concern at the lack of progress in finalising Britain's divorce from the bloc.

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With both sides far apart, after this week’s negotiations by videoconference it’s expected that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will hold talks to discuss how to proceed.

London has rejected the idea of extending the negotiating period and says if no agreement is reached on its future relationship with the EU then it will fall back on World Trade Organization rules.

However, UK business leaders have voiced concern about the plan and yesterday the Labour Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan sent a letter to British prime minister Boris Johnson asking him to request an extension if talks remain at a stalemate.

According to the negotiation framework, any such request for an extension must be made before the end of June.

Some influential Brexit-voting MPs and advisors suggest the UK Prime Minister should be ready to walk away without a deal, arguing that the difficulties such a scenario would certainly create for business would simply be conflated with the already existing problems of dealing with Covid-19 disruption.

Different visions

The talks are blocked over fundamental differences.

Brussels claims that Britain has backtracked on its commitment written into a previous agreement that it would seek a level playing field in future trade negotiations.

The EU says it is ready to give the UK access to most of the benefits of the single market if it is assured that British businesses adhere to EU standards in manufacturing, labour and environmental issues.  

Britain maintains that as a matter of sovereignty it must not be bound by EU rules and instead wants a series of smaller agreements which allow most trade between the two sides to be tariff-free.

There is also disagreement over whether the EU Court of Justice would be allowed to arbitrate in disputes over EU-UK issues.

Specialists teams will negotiate today and until Thursday and the chief negotiators Michel Barnier for the EU and David Frost for the UK will meet on Friday.

 

 

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