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On Friday, Germany called for more realism from Britain in the ongoing Brexit trade talks, after EU member states were given a “sobering” update by Michel Barnier following the recent round of negotiations. After a presentation by the EU’s chief negotiator to ambassadors from the 27 member states, a spokesman for the German government said the bloc was ready to move negotiations quickly forward but “expressed the need for more realism in London”. The two sides finished their latest round of negotiations in London on Thursday, but without being able to agree on the basic outlines of a deal.
Mr Barnier said in a virtual press conference a trade deal with the UK by the end of the year appears “unlikely”.
While there have been signs of compromise in some key issues, such as the need for a single deal rather than multiple sectoral agreements, the French official said there had been “no progress” on the two most difficult areas: the rights of European fleets in British waters and the so-called level playing field.
In a statement, the UK’s chief negotiator, David Frost, also concurred that there were “considerable gaps”.
Downing Street is now said to be working under the assumption Britain will have no trade deal in place when the transition period ends on December 31.
As no deal looks increasingly likely, unearthed reports shed light on the EU’s negotiating stance.
According to a throwback report by the Daily Express, in 2016, a top German politician warned EU member states that a badly handled Brexit would have sent Europe “down the drain”.
Mrs Merkel’s former deputy Sigmar Gabriel claimed that if the UK got everything it wanted, other countries would have left the EU and the union would have been “in deep trouble”.
He said that the world was now looking at Europe as an unstable continent.
He said: “If we organise Brexit in the wrong way, then we’ll be in deep trouble.
“We need to make sure we don’t allow Britain to keep the nice things, so to speak, while taking no responsibility.”
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He also said talks between the European Union and the US on a massive new free trade deal had essentially failed “though nobody was admitting it”.
He added: “Brexit is bad but it won’t hurt us as much economically as some fear – it’s more of a psychological problem and it’s a huge problem politically.”
Conservative MP and leading Brexit campaigner Steve Baker rebutted: “The minister needs to be absolutely clear what he is talking about. To govern ourselves is to take responsibility.
“The British public are clear they wish to have migration determined by the British Parliament.
“Of course we are not going to be joining in to bail out other European countries. It seems to be an admission that other countries know the EU isn’t working for them either.
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“Certainly we need a new basis for trade and friendly cooperation across the whole of Europe.”
And former Conservative MEP David Campbell Bannerman added: “It’s all bravado.
“The reality is, they need a trade deal more than we do.
“How are they going to punish us? We import a lot more goods from the EU than we export to it, therefore we are in a stronger position.”
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