Barnier laments ‘no progress’ after fourth round of post-Brexit trade talks

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said there has been no real progress made in post-Brexit trade talks and accused the UK of backtracking on a key commitment, as he warned: "I don't think we can go on like this forever."

Mr Barnier said at the end of the fourth round of negotiations that the UK team had continually sought "to distance themselves" from the political declaration agreed by Boris Johnson.

David Frost, Mr Barnier's British counterpart, acknowledged there had been only "limited" progress in the talks, which were the final ones before a potentially make-or-break high-level summit later this month.

And Mr Frost conceded that they are "close to reaching the limits" of anything achievable by the remote formal rounds of talks, which are taking place virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic.

35 PHOTOS
Britain leaves the EU
See Gallery
Britain leaves the EU
The Union flag is taken down outside the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, ahead of the UK leaving the European Union at 11pm on Friday.
A member of protocol carries the folded Union flag past the EU flag after it was removed from outside of the European Parliament in Brussels, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. As the United Kingdom prepared to bring to an end its 47-year EU membership, the bloc's top officials on Friday pledged to continue playing a prominent role despite the loss of a powerful affiliate. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
A member of protocol carries the folded Union flag after it was removed from outside of the European Parliament in Brussels, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. As the United Kingdom prepared to bring to an end its 47-year EU membership, the bloc's top officials on Friday pledged to continue playing a prominent role despite the loss of a powerful affiliate. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
The Union flag is lowered and removed from outside of the European Parliament in Brussels, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. As the United Kingdom prepared to bring to an end its 47-year EU membership, the bloc's top officials on Friday pledged to continue playing a prominent role despite the loss of a powerful affiliate. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
Pro-Brexit supporters gather in Parliament Square, London, as the UK prepared to leave the European Union at 11pm UK time. Picture date: Friday January 31, 2020. Photo credit should read: Matt Crossick/Empics
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage celebrates during a rally in London, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. The U.K. officially departs the EU at 11 p.m. local time, midnight in Brussels (2300 GMT, 6 p.m. EST). The move comes 3½ years after the country voted by a margin of 52%-48% to walk away from the club that it had joined in 1973. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
(Twitter)
A member of protocol removes the Union flag from the atrium of the Europa building in Brussels, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. As the United Kingdom prepared to bring to an end its 47-year EU membership, the bloc's top officials on Friday pledged to continue playing a prominent role despite the loss of a powerful affiliate. (Olivier Hoslet, Pool Photo via AP)
Großbritannien hat die EU verlassen. Während Hunderte Brexit-Anhänger in London jubelten, wurde in Schottland und Nordirland protestiert.
View on euronews
A countdown to Brexit timer and the colors of the British Union flag illuminate the exterior of 10 Downing street, the residence of the British Prime Minister, in London, England, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. Britain officially leaves the European Union on Friday after a debilitating political period that has bitterly divided the nation since the 2016 Brexit referendum. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
The Union flag is folded and removed after being lowered from outside of the European Parliament in Brussels, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. As the United Kingdom prepared to bring to an end its 47-year EU membership, the bloc's top officials on Friday pledged to continue playing a prominent role despite the loss of a powerful affiliate. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
Brexit supporters trample on a European Union flag during a rally in London, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. Britain officially leaves the European Union on Friday after a debilitating political period that has bitterly divided the nation since the 2016 Brexit referendum. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
A projection appears on a cliff in Ramsgate, southern England, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. Britain officially leaves the European Union on Friday after a debilitating political period that has bitterly divided the nation since the 2016 Brexit referendum. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Brexit supporters celebrate during a rally in London, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. Britain leaves the European Union after 47 years, leaping into an unknown future in historic blow to the bloc. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
A projection appears on a cliff in Ramsgate, southern England, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. Britain officially leaves the European Union on Friday after a debilitating political period that has bitterly divided the nation since the 2016 Brexit referendum. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
French gendarmes walk by as British living in France attend a gathering to express their sprit of Europe despite the withdrawal Brexit agreement and the UK's departure from the EU, in a street closed to the British Embassy in Paris, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. Britain leaves the European Union after 47 years, leaping into an unknown future in a historic blow to the bloc. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
An image of the clock face of 'Big Ben' is projected onto the exterior of 10 Downing street, the residence of the British Prime Minister, in London as Britain left the European Union, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. With little fuss and not much fanfare, Britain left the European Union on Friday after 47 years of membership, taking a leap into the unknown in a historic blow to the bloc. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
An image of the clock face of 'Big Ben' is projected onto the exterior of 10 Downing street, the residence of the British Prime Minister, in London as Britain left the European Union, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. With little fuss and not much fanfare, Britain left the European Union on Friday after 47 years of membership, taking a leap into the unknown in a historic blow to the bloc. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A Brexit supporter celebrates during a rally in Parliament square in London, England as Britain left the European Union on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. Britain officially leaves the European Union on Friday after a debilitating political period that has bitterly divided the nation since the 2016 Brexit referendum. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
Anti-Brexit protesters gather outside the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. Britain officially leaves the European Union on Friday after a debilitating political period that has bitterly divided the nation since the 2016 Brexit referendum. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
Protesters from the campaign group Border Communities Against Brexit take part in a demonstration in Carrickcarnon on the Irish border, Ireland, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. Britain officially leaves the European Union on Friday after a debilitating political period that has bitterly divided the nation since the 2016 Brexit referendum. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
Protesters from the campaign group Border Communities Against Brexit take part in a demonstration in Carrickcarnon on the Irish border, Ireland, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. Britain officially leaves the European Union on Friday after a debilitating political period that has bitterly divided the nation since the 2016 Brexit referendum. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
Brexit supporters gather during a rally in London, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. The U.K. is scheduled to leave the EU at 23:00 GMT Friday, the first nation in the bloc to do so. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Britain's Union flag is lowered form its pole outside the European Parliament Friday Jan. 31, 2020, in Strasbourg, eastern France. The U.K. is scheduled to leave the EU at 23:00 GMT Friday, the first nation in the bloc to do so. (AP Photo)
Brexit supporters pose with the Union Jack at the Cenotaph, in London, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. Britain officially leaves the European Union on Friday after a debilitating political period that has bitterly divided the nation since the 2016 Brexit referendum.(AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
Rain drops are seen on the umbrella of a Brexit supporter during a rally in London, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. Britain officially leaves the European Union on Friday after a debilitating political period that has bitterly divided the nation since the 2016 Brexit referendum. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Passengers arrive to embark on the last Eurostar train of the day at Gare du Nord Station in Paris to go to St Pancras International train station in London, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. The U.K. is due to leave the EU on Friday, the first nation to leave the bloc since its inception. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
The Union flag is lowered and removed from outside of the European Parliament in Brussels, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. As the United Kingdom prepared to bring to an end its 47-year EU membership, the bloc's top officials on Friday pledged to continue playing a prominent role despite the loss of a powerful affiliate. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
Anti-Brexit protesters gather outside the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. Britain officially leaves the European Union on Friday after a debilitating political period that has bitterly divided the nation since the 2016 Brexit referendum. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
The five-year old Elisa Saemann, left, and her seven-year old sister Katie hold a placard during a rally by anti-Brexit protesters outside the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. Britain officially leaves the European Union on Friday after a debilitating political period that has bitterly divided the nation since the 2016 Brexit referendum. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
A Brexit supporter holds a British flag during a rally in London, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. Britain officially leaves the European Union on Friday after a debilitating political period that has bitterly divided the nation since the 2016 Brexit referendum. (AP Photo/(AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
Anti-Brexit protesters gather outside the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. Britain officially leaves the European Union on Friday after a debilitating political period that has bitterly divided the nation since the 2016 Brexit referendum. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
A projection by the Mayor of London’s office displaying 'London - everyone welcome' is seen at Piccadilly Circus in London, Britain January 31, 2020. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage speaks to the media through a fence as he celebrates Britain leaving the EU on Brexit day, at Parliament Square in London, Britain, January 31, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
A person pours a beer on the European Union flag lying on the ground and covered with a mud on Brexit day in London, Britain January 31, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Mr Barnier said "the door is still open" for the UK to seek an extension to the current transition period before the end of June to allow more time for discussions, but the Prime Minister has vowed not to extend this.

The EU's negotiator told a Brussels press conference: "My responsibility is to speak the truth and to tell the truth this week there have been no significant areas of progress."

On the key area of fisheries, he said the UK has "not shown any true will" to explore compromises.

And he said both sides were still "very far" from reaching agreement on the level playing field, nuclear safety, anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism funding, and a "overarching institutional framework" for the future relationship.

"In all areas, the UK continues to backtrack under commitments undertaken in the political declaration, including on fisheries," Mr Barnier said.

"We cannot and will not accept this backtracking on the political declaration."

But he said he hopes by the beginning of autumn to find "some common ground" for a future agreement.

Brexit
David Frost (left) and Michel Barnier have been forced to conduct talks remotely (Dati Bendo/EU/PA)

In a statement, Mr Frost said: "Progress remains limited but our talks have been positive in tone. Negotiations will continue and we remain committed to a successful outcome.

"We are now at an important moment for these talks. We are close to reaching the limits of what we can achieve through the format of remote formal rounds.

"If we are to make progress, it is clear that we must intensify and accelerate our work. We are discussing with the commission how this can best be done.

"For our part we are willing to work hard to see whether at least the outline of a balanced agreement, covering all issues, can be reached soon."

There is mounting concern among business – already hit hard by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic – at the prospect of a "cliff edge" break to the UK's remaining access to the EU single market with no new deal to replace it.

Read Full Story Click here to comment

FROM OUR PARTNERS