After the third negotiating round started today, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, warned that he expects to see “tangible progress across all areas” of the future relationship discussions. The Frenchman insisted this means Britain must engage on the bloc’s plan for a regulatory level playing field.
Top Brussels officials have accused Boris Johnson’s army of negotiators of deliberately stalling talks and not engaging on the most contentious areas.
Writing on Twitter, Mr Barnier said: “Round three of the negotiations began today with David Frost and team.
“We need tangible progress across all areas, including open and fair competition standards.
“We are negotiating on behalf of the entire EU. There must be a proper balance of rights and obligations.”
EU diplomats and officials have said they believe Mr Frost, Boris Johnson’s chief negotiator, is less willing to engage on areas where the bloc is keen to secure concessions from Britain.
They are, however, wary of British efforts to make rapid progress on a free-trade agreement, retaining access to the EU’s aviation market and securing continued nuclear co-operation.
One EU official said: “It’s clear the UK wants to show progress by June on the free-trade agreement, aviation and energy and then say there is no need for an extension, and that a deal can be done on these points.”
Downing Street has responded angrily to the allegations.
A UK spokesman said: “We do not recognise the suggestion that we have not engaged with the EU in any area.
“We will continue to negotiate constructively to find a balanced solution which reflects the political realities on both sides.”
UK sources insist they are ready to hold substantial discussions, but it doesn’t mean Mr Frost will consider accepting EU demands to keep Britain locked to its rulebook.
“This isn’t a negotiating position, it’s the point of Brexit and what the Government was elected to deliver,” one said.
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A UK spokesman said: “Extending the transition would simply prolong the negotiations, prolong business uncertainty, and delay the moment of control of our borders.
“Clearly as the EU looks to deal with the impacts of coronavirus on the 27 member states, they will need to propose all kinds of new legislation which will obviously be designed for the 27, rather than being tailored in a way to suit the interests of the UK.
“An extension to the transition period would bind us into future EU legislation, without us having any say in designing it.”