Brexit talks could COLLAPSE as stubborn EU digs in heels – UK told to cave over fishing

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The UK and EU are resuming talks on a post-Brexit trade deal in London today as the two sides desperately try to thrash out an agreement and overcome a number of hurdles. Negotiations began in March but following several rounds of talks, both sides have lamented the lack of progress and significant differences that still exist. This means Britain’s future relationship with the bloc remains undecided – more than four years after the UK voted to leave the EU in a historic referendum.

Now allies of Boris Johnson say he believes Brexit talks could completely collapse over the next few weeks as EU member states take an increasingly tough stance against British demands.

Those close to the Prime Minister have warned he is prepared for leaders of the EU27 pulling out next month because of what one source described to The Times as a “chasm” between the sides.

There are ongoing disagreements on a number of issues, particularly around fishing and LPF rules, which the EU says are needed to prevent unfair competition.

A Downing Street source told The Times: “Michel Barnier is negotiating in good faith but he has to deal with an EU27 who still think unachievable outcomes on fish and LPF are possible.

“We have to deal with reality that the EU27 may tell him at the end of the intensive process that there’s no point in negotiating on this basis.

“That’s why we must be ready for the prospect of talks ending, hence readiness preparations.

“We are relaxed about having the same trade terms as Australia.”

The UK officially left the bloc on January 31, with trade talks beginning in Brussels two months later, led by Boris Johnson’s chief negotiator David Frost and Brussels counterpart Mr Barnier.

Face-to-face talks were put on hold due to the coronavirus crisis sweeping through the continent, but resumed last month in Brussels, followed by further meetings in London at 10 Downing Street earlier this month.

But both sides have lamented the lack of progress made in negotiations to this point, continuing to insist “significant differences” remain between them.

The UK and EU teams have attacked each other over demands made in a future trade deal, with elements such as fisheries, a level playing field and access from the City of London to EU financial markets acting as major stumbling blocks.

Mr Johnson wants a deal completed over the coming weeks but Angela Merkel said talks could stretch into the autumn and has warned EU nations to prepare for a possible no deal scenario.

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The German Chancellor has also issued several warnings to EU member states to prepare for a no deal Brexit as progress stalls.

Last month, Ms Merkel lashed out at Mr Johnson’s Brexit demands and told him he has to “live with the consequences”, as Germany continued to harden its stance in negotiations.

She said the UK must accept it chose to have a more distant relationship with the EU when it ditched Theresa May’s Brexit deal and must now understand the consequences.

Appearing to harden her approach on a potential compromise, Ms Merkel said: “We need to let go of the idea that it is for us to define what Britain should want.

“That is for Britain to define – and we, the EU27, will respond appropriately.”

She added: “With Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the British Government wants to define for itself what relationship it will have with us after the country leaves.

“It will then have to live with the consequences, of course, that is to say with a less closely interconnected economy.

“If Britain does not want to have rules on the environment and the labour market or social standards that compare with those of the EU, our relations will be less close.

“That will mean it does not want standards to go on developing along parallel lines.”

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