The two sides ended talks early this week with the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier complaining of a lack of respect and engagement by the UK Government. Mr Barnier met with his counterpart, David Frost, this week in the first round of face to face talks in weeks due to coronavirus but left with the areas of divergence still remaining. The two sides have now passed the deadline to extend the transition period and have agreed to expedite talks in pursuit of Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
Mr Johnson has even insisted a deal could be reached this month but has also indicated the UK will walk away from Brexit talks if negotiations continue into the autumn.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Alex De Ruyter, professor at Birmingham University and director of Centre for Brexit Studies, claimed the Prime Minister will be prepared to leave negotiations.
Insisting a no deal Brexit is still the most likely outcome, Mr De Ruyter said: “I still think a no deal Brexit is still the most likely outcome, though never say never, given how the UK Government caved-in on Northern Ireland which precipitated the withdrawal agreement – there is still time for a last-minute fudge.
“That said, the hard-core Brexiteers in the Government reject any notion of continued adherence to EU regulatory thresholds so I think Johnson may be prepared to go down this road.
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“At least to the extent that they think a trade agreement with the US is within their grasp.”
Chiefly, the EU has demanded the UK sign up to certain measures of the level-playing field.
The level-playing field is a principle which ties two states to the same rules and regulations to ensure one does not undercut the other.
This principle has remained one of the largest areas of divergence as Brussels has insisted it will not lower its standards in pursuit of an agreement.
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This has also trickled down to the issue of state aid which is termed by the UK Government as: “State aid is any advantage granted by public authorities through state resources on a selective basis to any organisations that could potentially distort competition and trade in the European Union (EU).
“The definition of state aid is very broad because ‘an advantage’ can take many forms.
“It is anything which an undertaking (an organisation engaged in economic activity) could not get on the open market.”
After leaving talks today, Mr Barnier insisted the areas of divergence still remain between the two sides.
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He said: “Our goal was to get negotiations successfully and quickly on a trajectory to reach an agreement.
“However, after four days of discussions, serious divergences remain.”
He did add, the EU has understood the red lines of the UK such as an agreement on fisheries, the removed role of the European Court of Justice in the UK and no obligation for the UK to be bound by EU law.
He insisted, however, the UK has not yet recognised the EU’s demands although there may be a willingness to drop its call for state aid to be included in domestic UK legislation.
EU-UK trade talks timeline
In response, Mr Frost said: “The negotiations have been comprehensive and useful.
“But they have also underlined the significant differences that still remain between us on a number of important issues.”
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The deadline for an agreement is December 31, 2020.
If a deal is not agreed by then, the UK will leave and adhere to World Trade Organisation terms.