EU’s Barnier says ‘serious’ differences in UK talks but deal possible
BRUSSELS: Britain and the European Union have “very serious” differences about their future relationship but an agreement is still possible, the EU’s Brexit negotiator said on Thursday after a first round of talks following their divorce.
Dozens of EU and UK officials have been discussing the post-Brexit relationship in Brussels this week after more than three years of tortuous divorce talks that culminated in Britain leaving the bloc on Jan. 31 after nearly 50 years of membership.
“There are many divergences, and they are very serious divergences … some are very, very difficult,” Barnier told reporters. “(But) I think, sincerely, that the agreement is possible – even if difficult.”
A UK government spokesman said this week’s talks had been constructive, but that it would be “tough” forging a deal.
“In some areas there seems to be a degree of common understanding of how to take the talks forward. In other areas, such as fishing, governance, criminal justice and the so-called ‘level playing field’ issues there are, as expected, significant differences,” the spokesman said.
Barnier said Britain’s refusal to heed EU demands for robust provisions on fair competition was a problem, as well as London’s plan to step away from the European Convention on Human Rights.
“We had (previously) agreed with the United Kingdom that we would want to prevent, on both sides, distortion of trade and prevent unfair competitive advantage… (But) the United Kingdom does not wish to translate those undertakings into a common agreement,” Barnier said. – Reuters