Government sources have said this week that the EU‘s approach to trade talks has resulted in “paralysis”. Brexit negotiations have stalled in recent months over two key issues – fisheries and regulatory alignment. Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to fulfil a Leave campaign promise that the UK will take back control of its waters post-Brexit. Previously, EU vessels had free access to British fishing grounds, leaving many fishermen in the UK aggrieved.
However, the EU’s chief negotiator – Michel Barnier – has warned Mr Johnson he cannot secure access to European markets without allowing EU vessels into UK waters.
The UK is also looking to avoid EU regulations – giving the country more freedom to set its own laws on trading standards.
A Government source said this week: “The particular way the EU insisted on parallelism led to paralysis. Obviously everything needs to be up for discussion, but it makes no sense to have everything going at the speed of the most difficult issues.
“Now they need to adapt their approach to make sure talks throughout the summer don’t suffer from unnecessary roadblocks.”
Back in October last year, Mr Johnson’s strategy provoked fury from Europe’s media.
European newspapers and commentators rounded on the “outrageous” tactics of an “out-of-control” Downing Street after a string of leaks sought to blame France, Ireland and Germany for the Brexit breakdown at the time – but they warned the EU would not fall for them.
EU news: Europe’s press branded Johnson a saboteur
EU news: They criticised Johnson’s Brexit strategy
For Germany’s Suddeutsche Zeitung – it was predictable that the UK would try and blame German Chancellor Angela Merkel and co.
They said the UK was “heading for no deal, either before or after the next election – it’s just a matter of time”, and all because the EU is “not prepared to compromise. We gave it our all, but it was not sufficient. Now enough is enough.
“Aversion to Britain’s wartime opponent, and its return to power via Brussels, was a reason for many especially older Britons to vote for Brexit.”
EU news: German press said the UK “blamed Merkel”
It added that there would be an inevitable reaction from leave voters: “Merkel is to blame, Germany is showing its true face, Berlin always wanted to subjugate us, the EU must be smashed.”
Liberation – a daily newspaper in France – said that the UK would shift the blame to French premier Emmanuel Macron and co after Germany.
The paper said: “The game of ‘Who’s to blame for Brexit?’ has moved up a gear, with an out-of-control Downing St now firing off highly dubious statements more or less indiscriminately.
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Brexit news: French press claimed the UK would blame Macron next
Brexit news: Trade talks have stalled
“France was accused of helping to draft the Benn act … This week, after the EU27 judged there were numerous specific problems with the UK’s proposal, Ireland ‘doesn’t want to negotiate’ and Angela Merkel tells Boris Johnson a deal is ‘virtually impossible’ – in language that sounds nothing like her”.
In a piece headlined ‘The Saboteur’, Germany’s Der Spiegel reckoned that Johnson, thwarted in his desire for no deal by parliament, was “embarking on a last-ditch attempt to make it possible – this time, triggered by the EU”.
He was “doing everything possible to prevent the EU unanimously approving a new Brexit extension”.