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The Frenchman claimed progress in the talks about the future relationship between the UK and European Union had been slow after a round of discussions in London broke up without an agreement. He accused Britain’s negotiating team of scuppering the chances of a deal by refusing to move closer to the EU’s position. The bloc wants to retain the same level of access to the country’s fishing grounds and a regulatory level-playing field, with a role for the European Court of Justice.
Mr Barnier lashed out at a press conference after the talks broke up at lunchtime.
He said: “The UK is effectively asking for near total exclusion of EU fishing vessels from UK waters, that is simply unacceptable.”
“The EU has always insisted that an economic partnership with the UK must include robust level-playing field rules and an equitable agreement on fisheries,” the Brussels bureaucrat added.
“This means simply that by its current refusal to commit to commit to the condition of open and fair competition and to a balanced agreement on fisheries, the UK makes a trade deal, at this point, unlikely.”
Mr Barnier blamed the slow progress on David Frost, claiming the Prime Minister’s chief EU negotiator had “not shown the same level of engagement and readiness to find solutions, respecting the EU’s fundamental principles and interests”.
EU negotiators refused to give way on their hardline demands despite a compromise offer by Britain on the management of the future relationship.
After the talks, Mr Frost signalled he would accept the bloc’s demand for a single overarching agreement rather than lots of separate deals.
The move came amid fears in Brussels the future relationship could be blighted by disputes as a “complex Switzerland-style set of agreements”.
Mr Frost conceded the “substantial areas of disagreement” between the UK and EU would mean talks would not be wrapped up this summer.
He said: “We have always been clear that our principles in these areas are not simple negotiating positions but expressions of the reality that we will be a fully independent country at the end of the transition period.
“That is why we continue to look for a deal with, at its core, a free trade agreement similar to the one the EU already has with Canada – that is, an agreement based on existing precedents.
“We remain unclear why this is so difficult for the EU, but we will continue to negotiate with this in mind.”
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Tory MPs backed the Prime Minister’s Brexit envoy to continue defending Britain’s interest despite Mr Barnier’s attempts to squeeze concessions from him.
Brexiteer backbencher Andrew Bridgen said: “Our negotiator’s job is to negotiate on behalf of the UK, I know it might come as a surprise to Mr Barnier after his previous dealings with Olly Robbins.
“David Frost has put consistency and rigour into our negotiations and it’s quite right because the EU is demanding concessions that could never be agreed by a sovereign and independent state.
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“The mandate of demands from the EU for a trade deal could not be agreed by any independent state. If Mr Barnier made these demands of Japan, Canada and South Korea they would not do a trade deal with him.
“Brussels wants permanent rights to our fish, but are the French offering us free wine in perpetuity?”
Mark Francois, chairman of the eurosceptic ERG, said: “We will now decide our own national destiny – for good or ill – and they have to get their head around the fact that that is the world we’re now living in.”
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