David Frost claimed his European Union counterpart has a different understanding of the non-binding document that sets out the “parameters” of a potential future relationship agreement. He said: “In our view of the Political Declaration is that, as it says in the title, is a framework of an ‘ambitious broad deep and flexible partnership’.” Mr Frost’s intervention came after Mr Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, claimed the British were “backsliding” on previous commitments.
The Frenchman unleashed a furious tirade after the end of the fourth round of trade talks between the bloc and Britain.
He fumed: “Our lack of progress in this negotiations is not due to our method, but to the substance.
“We must stick to our commitments if we want to move forward. We engaged in this negotiation on the basis of a joint Political Declaration that clearly sets out the terms of our future partnership.
“This document is available in all languages, including English. It is a good read, if I may say so.
David Frost hits out at Michel Barnier’s complaint over UK ‘backsliding’
David Frost is the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator
“This declaration was negotiated with and approved by Prime Minister Johnson.
“It was approved by leaders of the 27 member states at the European Council In October 2019. It has the backing of the European Parliament.
It is – and it will remain for us – the only valid reference, the only relevant precedent in this negotiation, as it was agreed by both sides.”
He added: “Yet, round after round, our British counterparts seek to distance themselves from this common basis.”
Mr Barnier accused the Government of refusing to discuss agreements on a level-playing field on state aid, environmental and labour standards, nuclear safety, anti-money laundering measures and an overarching framework for the future relationship.
David Frost and Michel Barnier in Brussels last March
But Mr Frost is confident his army of negotiators has upheld the UK’s end of the bargain as they end the latest round of talks.
He even suggested the EU, itself, was “resisting” the terms of the Political Declaration by not allowing separate agreements on fisheries and nuclear safety.
The latest round of virtual negotiations ended in a stalemate, with Mr Barnier claiming “no significant progress” had been made.
British and Brussels officials agreed, however, to intensify the talks in the hope of reaching a deal before the autumn.
David Frost has been forced to negotiate remotely due of coronavirus
Mr Barnier suggested talks could run into October before an agreement is reached.
Speaking after the talks, Mr Frost said: “We have just completed our fourth full negotiating round with the EU, again by video conference. It was a little shorter than usual and more restricted in scope. We continue to discuss the full range of issues, including the most difficult ones.
“Progress remains limited but our talks have been positive in tone. Negotiations will continue and we remain committed to a successful outcome.
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“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.
“We need to conclude this negotiation in good time to enable people and businesses to have certainty about the trading terms that will follow the end of the transition period at the end of this year, and, if necessary, to allow ratification of any agreements reached.
“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. Any such deal must of course accommodate the reality of the UK’s well-established position on the so-called ‘level playing field’, on fisheries, and the other difficult issues.”