Brexit: UK-EU trade talks set back and time is running out

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British and EU officials said on Friday little progress had been made in negotiations to set new terms of trade before the transitional Brexit deals expire at the end of 2020. Michel Barnier, chief negotiator for the European Union, said the talks had even reversed on the key. issues, including commercial fishing rights.

“At this stage, an agreement between the UK and the European Union seems unlikely,” Barnier told reporters in Brussels. “I just don’t understand why we are wasting precious time. The clock is turning. ”

UK chief negotiator David Frost said a deal was “always possible”, but warned it “will not be easy to achieve”.

“Substantial work continues to be needed in a whole range of areas of potential future cooperation between the UK and the EU if we are to achieve this,” Frost said in a statement. “We had some useful discussions this week, but there has been little progress. “

The UK left the European Union in January, but the terms of trade with its largest export market remained unchanged for a transition period that will expire at the end of 2020. If negotiators fail to strike a new deal, UK companies face higher negotiating costs at a time when many have been hit by a historic recession.

UK economic output fell a record 20.4% in the second quarter of 2020, plunging the country into the deepest recession of any major global economy. Around 730,000 jobs have been cut since the coronavirus pandemic shut down UK businesses in March.

The UK government has also so far failed to replicate dozens of EU trade deals with third countries, let alone strike a new one with the US, meaning UK businesses could back down. encounter barriers to doing business in most of the foreign markets they serve.

EU officials say a deal with the UK must be reached by mid-October to secure ratification by the 27-member union. On Friday, the two sides agreed to stay in touch over the next two weeks ahead of the next round of negotiations in London in the week of September 7.

Frost said fishing policies and government aid rules for businesses were among the main sticking points.

“There are other important areas that remain to be resolved and, even where there is broad understanding among negotiators, there are a lot of details to deal with. Time is running out for both sides, ”he said.

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