Negotiations back on
Brexit talks resume as EU says deal ‘within reach’
Michel Barnier: ‘we need to resolve sticking points’
Brexit talks will resume today after the EU agreed to negotiate on all subjects and said a deal was “within reach”.
The change of tack follows Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement last Friday that the talks were “over” and that Britain should prepare for a no-deal exit from the EU.
David Frost, the Prime Minister’s special adviser, confirmed in a tweet that the “intensive talks” will take place today and continue daily.
The EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said that a new trade deal with Britain was “within reach” if both sides work hard to overcome the sticking points in the coming days.
“An agreement is within reach if both sides are willing to work constructively, compromise and working to make progress on the basis of legal texts and if we are able in the coming days to resolve the sticking points,” Mr Barnier said.
“Time is of essence… Along with our British counterparts, we must find solutions to the most difficult areas.”
Downing Street issued a statement saying it had “studied carefully” Mr Barnier’s comments to the European Parliament.
“As the EU’s Chief Negotiator his words are authoritative,” said the statement.
“The Prime Minister and Michael Gove [Cabinet Office minister] have both made clear in recent days that a fundamental change in approach was needed from the EU from that shown in recent weeks.
“They made clear that the EU had to be serious about talking intensively, on all issues, and bringing the negotiation to a conclusion. They were also clear that the EU had to accept once again that it was dealing with an independent and sovereign country and that any agreement would need to be consistent with that status.
“We welcome the fact that Mr Barnier acknowledged both points this morning, and additionally that movement would be needed from both sides in the talks if agreement was to be reached.
“As he made clear, any future agreement will be made in respect of the decision-making autonomy of the European Union and with respect for British sovereignty.”
The statement said Lord Frost discussed the implications of this statement and the state of play with Mr Barnier and o the basis of that conversation “we are ready to welcome the EU team to London to resume negotiations later this week.”
A set of principles for handling this intensified phase of talks have been agreed.
“As to the substance, we note that Mr Barnier set out the principles that the EU has brought to this negotiation, and that he also acknowledged the UK’s established red lines.
“It is clear that significant gaps remain between our positions in the most difficult areas, but we are ready, with the EU, to see if it is possible to bridge them in intensive talks. For our part, we remain clear that the best and most established means of regulating the relationship between two sovereign and autonomous parties is one based on a free trade agreement.”
Downing Street said there was still a chance the talks would break down, in which case the UK would leave on “Australia terms” which some interpret as “no deal”.
The statement said: “As both sides have made clear, it takes two to reach an agreement. It is entirely possible that negotiations will not succeed. If so, the UK will end the transition period on Australia terms and will prosper in doing so.
“It is essential now that UK businesses, hauliers, and travellers prepare actively for the end of the transition period, since change is coming, whether an agreement is reached or not.”