Mr Barnier noted that at the High-Level Meeting in June Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that he wanted to reach a political agreement quickly. Mr Johnson also set out three red lines:
- no role for the Court of Justice of the European Union in the UK;
- the right to determine future UK laws without constraints and;
- an agreement on fisheries that shows that Brexit makes a real difference compared to the existing situation.
Following the High-Level Meeting, the parties agreed to intensify discussions.
Mr Barnier said that the EU has “tried to understand how these three red lines can be squared with our commitment to a comprehensive new partnership – as set out in the Political Declaration, signed by Prime Minister Johnson on 17 October last year”. However, he said, over the past few weeks “the UK has not shown the same level of engagement and readiness to find solutions respecting the EU’s fundamental principles and interests”.
Nevertheless, Mr Barnier said that the parties had useful discussions on some issues in goods and services. But, he said, the negotiations are complex and require progress across all areas. “And we are still far away”.
In terms of progress, Mr Barnier said:
- there were useful discussions to narrow divergences in the areas of social security coordination and Union programmes;
- progress was made towards the objective of a comprehensive and single institutional framework, which must include robust enforcement mechanisms; and
- there were good discussions on police and judicial cooperation, even if divergences remain.
On transport and energy there were intense and useful discussions. However, Mr Barnier said, “the UK continued to request single market-like benefits”.
In addition, there was still no progress on the so-called “level playing field”, including on State aid and standards, nor was there any progress on fisheries. In Mr Barnier’s view, this “should not come as a surprise”.
Mr Barnier noted that both these issues are “mentioned explicitly in the Political Declaration – a rather precise text” and were “part and parcel of our political engagement with Prime Minister Boris Johnson eight months ago”. The EU is “simply asking to translate this political engagement into a legal text. Nothing more”. However, “the UK did not show a willingness to break the deadlock”.
Mr Barnier said that, on the level playing field, “the UK still refuses to commit to maintaining high standards in a meaningful way”. While the EU respects the UK Government’s political choices and it is ready to work on solutions, the EU “cannot and will not accept to foot the bill for the UK’s political choices”. Further, a less ambitious agreement on goods and services “will not lead the EU to drop its demands for a robust level playing field”, he said.
On fisheries, Mr Barnier said that the UK is effectively asking for a near total exclusion of EU fishing vessels from UK waters. “That is simply unacceptable”, he said.
Mr Barnier repeated the EU’s position that an economic partnership with the UK must include robust level playing field rules and an equitable agreement on fisheries. Therefore, by refusing to commit to conditions of open and fair competition and to a balanced agreement on fisheries, “the UK makes a trade agreement at this point unlikely”.
Mr Barnier concluded by reiterating that the EU is still committed to reaching an agreement with the UK. “Work continues”, and the EU’s resolve “remains unchanged”, he said. To read Mr Barnier’s statement in full, click here.