David Frost, the UK’s Chief Negotiator, said that “unfortunately” it was clear that the parties will not reach in July the “early understanding on the principles underlying any agreement” that was set as an aim at the High-Level Meeting on 15 June 2020.
Mr Frost reiterated that the fundamental principles set out by the Prime Minister at the High-Level Meeting, and that the UK has “repeatedly made clear”, would need to underpin any future agreement and that they are “intrinsic to the UK’s future as an economically and politically independent country”. “Any agreement needs to honour these principles in full”, he said. In Mr Frost’s view, the EU’s proposals so far “while a welcome response to the Prime Minister’s statement”, do not honour these principles, and therefore “substantial areas of disagreement remain”.
Mr Frost noted that the EU “has listened to the UK on some of the issues most important to us, notably on the role of the Court of Justice”, and he welcomed this “more pragmatic approach”. Similarly, he said, the UK has “heard the EU’s concerns about a complex Switzerland-style set of agreements” and is “ready to consider simpler structures, provided satisfactory terms can be found for dispute settlement and governance”.
Mr Frost also said that there were “constructive discussions” on trade in goods and services, and in some of the sectoral agreements, notably on transport, social security cooperation, and participation in EU programmes. The parties have also “continued to deepen our understanding of each other’s constraints on law enforcement”.
However, Mr Frost said that “considerable gaps remain in the most difficult areas”, i.e. the level playing field and fisheries. “We have always been clear that our principles in these areas are not simple negotiating positions but expressions of the reality that we will be a fully independent country at the end of the transition period”, he said.
The UK continues to look for a deal with, at its core, a free trade agreement similar to the one the EU already has with Canada, i.e. an agreement based on existing precedents. “We remain unclear why this is so difficult for the EU, but we will continue to negotiate with this in mind”, Mr Frost said.
Mr Frost reiterated that the UK will continue to work hard to reach an agreement with the EU, but noted that because there is not much time left until the end of the transition period “we must face the possibility that one will not be reached”. Therefore, the UK must “continue preparing for all possible scenarios for the end of the transition period at the end of this year”.
In conclusion, Mr Frost said that his assessment is that agreement can still be reached in September. Accordingly, “we look forward to welcoming the EU team back to London next week as planned for informal discussions and to the next negotiating round beginning on 17 August 2020”. To read Mr Frost’s statement in full, click here.