Discussions are due to continue next week, before a next round of negotiations starting August 17.

Running gag. London and Brussels parted this Thursday on a new finding of failure at the end of a negotiating session on their post-Brexit relationship, for lack of progress on the main bones of contention, while keeping the hope of ‘a deal.

Since the UK left the European Union on January 31, after 47 years of a rocky marriage, the two sides have engaged in intense discussions to define the framework for their new relationship and forge a free trade agreement. at the end of the transition period, which ends on December 31.

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After three days of discussions in London, the European negotiator Michel Barnier judged this Thursday “unlikely” in the state of reaching an agreement, during a press conference. Discussions are due to continue next week, before a next round of negotiations starting August 17.

“Little progress” has been made on a level playing field and fisheries. Before allowing London access to the European market without customs duties or quotas, the 27 absolutely want to avoid the emergence of an unfair competitor at their doors. For its part, the United Kingdom wants to regain control of its fish-bearing waters and limit access to Union fishermen.

“By its current refusal to commit to the conditions of fair competition and a balanced agreement on fisheries, the United Kingdom makes a trade agreement at this stage unlikely,” said Michel Barnier. “The United Kingdom is seeking an almost total exclusion” of European fishing vessels from British waters, he noted, “this is simply unacceptable”.

No question of “giving up”

His British counterpart David Frost, for his part, deplored that no agreement could be found before the end of July, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson, an ardent promoter of Brexit, had hoped. The head of the Conservative government considered it unnecessary to continue discussions until the fall.

“Unfortunately, it is clear that we will not conclude in July ‘the preliminary agreement on the principles underlying an agreement’ that we had set as a target” in the discussions, regretted David Frost in a statement. “Considerable differences remain in the most difficult areas, namely a level playing field and fishing,” confirmed the British negotiator.

Nevertheless, “despite the difficulties, the progress is real”, argued a senior British official. “When the process ceases to be of use and there is no way to reach an agreement, there is no point in discussing any more. We are not there,” said this source close to the negotiations.

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“There was never any question from David Frost or mine to abandon the negotiations. Far from it”, added Michel Barnier. “Despite all the difficulties, based on the work we did in July, I believe a deal can still be found in September,” Frost said.

In the absence of an agreement before December 31, the British and Europeans would leave each other by applying in their trade the rules of the World Trade Organization and their high customs duties from January 1.

Last week, London unveiled details of its first post-Brexit border management proposals, insisting that they would be implemented regardless of a deal being reached with Brussels. The project foresees a gradual application of the law at the borders during the first six months of 2021.