Trade

Barnier: Very serious differences at end of first round of Brexit talks

There are four major points of divergence between London and Brussels after the first round of talks on post-Brexit relations, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said Thursday at a press conference to mark the end of the first round of Brexit talks.

“We noted that there are points of convergence on some of our objectives,” Barnier said, including the participation of the U.K. in some EU programs. “But to be completely bold: there are many divergences and they are very serious divergences, which is probably quite natural in a first round of negotiations.”

He said the main differences were a level playing field, criminal justice and law enforcement, governance and fishing.

On a level playing field, Barnier referred to the Political Declaration. We had agreed with the U.K. that we want to prevent trade distortions and unfair competitive advantage. We also agreed that we would keep high standards.” He added that “the U.K. said that it wants to keep the same ambition of high standards but … doesnt want to take those undertakings in a common agreement and doesnt want a proper mechanism in order to respect those standards.” He said that this is “a question of trust.”

On criminal justice and law enforcement, “this is a must-have for us,” Barnier said, whereas “the U.K. informed the EU that they do not wish to commit formally to continue to apply the European Convention on Human Rights” and that the U.K. doesnt want the Court of Justice of the EU to play its role in interpreting EU law. Barnier warned that “if the U.K. does not move on this, it will have an immediate and concrete effect on the level of ambition.”

When it comes to the governance of the future agreement, while the U.K. wants a series of sectoral arrangements on a case-by-case basis, the EU wants a global agreement. “This is not a matter of ideology, its a matter of being practical,” Barnier said. According to him, an overarching governance would provide legal certainty and would make it easier to address new topics in the future.

On fisheries, the fact that the U.K. wants annual negotiations on reciprocal access between U.K. and EU waters is impractical, said Barnier.

However, Barnier insisted that he believes an agreement can be reached. “The past few days have been very constructive,” the former French minister said.

He added that “we will do everything we can to build the foundation of our future partnership, as was agreed on in the Political Declaration.”

Barnier also said he got reassurances from the U.K. that it will implement the Northern Ireland Protocol. British media had previously reported that the U.K.s Brexit team has been ordered to come up with plans to “get around” the protocol in the Withdrawal Agreement, which foresees checks on gRead More – Source
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