Brussels officials are preparing to intensify negotiations over the next six weeks after the process ground to a halt, sources have told Express.co.uk. Both sides were forced to abandon two rounds of face-to-face trade talks after they were deemed to risky to hold as the global pandemic wreaked havoc across the continent. Lead negotiators David Frost and Michel Barnier will hold their first high-level talks since early March after both going into self-isolation with coronavirus symptoms.
European capitals were this week debriefed on a series of draft trade proposals put forward by Boris Johnson’s negotiating team three weeks ago.
Diplomats, who have yet to be shown the text, were told by Mr Barnier’s deputies that there remains “some very, very large gaps” between the two sides, an EU source told Express.co.uk.
The so-called “level-playing field” on standards, fisheries and the governance of the overall trade deal remain the main sticking points, the EU official added.
But despite the pessimism, areas of agreement are starting to emerge after a series of mini discussions between London and Brussels helped clarify the Prime Minister’s position.
Seeking a number of clarifications on the British texts, Mr Barnier’s team understand the UK’s position on trade of goods, services and energy.
“The key question is now how quickly you can move on areas where there are strong convergences, it’s on the difficult areas – such as fisheries – where there are divergences,” another source said.
“The importance of advancing in parallel still remains a very strong point.”
Mr Barnier has been told to expect two new British proposals to review before both sides next meet, via video link, before the end of the month.
Sources have indicated the planned papers will cover energy and justice and home affairs.
Despite doubts over whether both sides can successfully negotiate via video link, EU officials have been told to “get on with the job”, according to a source.
“It’s too early because we don’t have the full backdrop, so why answer questions that are too big to tackle?”
Published at Thu, 09 Apr 2020 19:55:00 +0000