LONDON (Reuters) – Britain is confident it can get a deal on its future ties with the European Union: London just needs Brussels to start treating the country as an independent negotiator, a source close to the British negotiating team said on Thursday.
Sources in Brussels say the talks have reached an impasse, with both sides unable to find any compromise on three main areas – the so-called level playing field guarantees of fair competition, governance and fisheries policy.
Britain left the EU in January and, despite the coronavirus outbreak, has repeatedly said it will not ask for an extension to this year’s transition period.
Negotiators have until the end of the year to negotiate a trade deal and agreements on everything from fishing to transport, to replace more than 40 years of closely aligned relations. The EU wants one single overarching deal.
“I am quite positive … I believe that in the core areas of this there is actually good understanding between negotiators,” the source said. “If we can get over the EU’s insistence on not treating us as a fully independent negotiator, I think we can make progress quite quickly.
“I am confident we will get over that … but probably a bit more noise has to happen before we get to that point.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a figurehead of the 2016 campaign to leave the EU, has shown no desire to prolong the talks despite officials in Brussels saying there is little time to negotiate a deal for a future relationship.
But London’s negotiators suggest that the EU is complicating matters by refusing to base the talks on deals already struck with other countries, such as Canada, and instead asking for additional provisions.
After last week’s talks, which were held virtually because of the coronavirus crisis, chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier warned that London had to budge for a deal to be sealed in the little time available.
“We agree with Barnier that there is little time, there is the need to make progress. What is very clear to me is that if we were agreeing a standard Canada-style trade agreement, we could do it quite quickly,” the source said, adding that the technology helping virtual talks held up well.
“If they continue to insist on their position on the so-called level playing field and continuing the common fisheries policy, we’re never going to accept that … but I hope they will move on from it.”
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