London, Dec 4 (efe-epa).- The United Kingdom and the European Union agreed Friday to pause talks on their post-Brexit trade relationship, saying significant obstacles still stand in the way of a deal.
Top UK negotiator David Frost and his EU counterpart, Michel Barnier, made the announcement on Twitter.
“After one week of intense negotiations in London, the two Chief Negotiators agreed today that the conditions for an agreement are not met, due to significant divergences on level playing field, governance and fisheries,” they said in a joint statement. “On this basis, they agreed to pause the talks in order to brief their Principals on the state of play of the negotiations.”
“(European Commission) President (Ursula) von der Leyen and (British) Prime Minister (Boris) Johnson will discuss the state of play tomorrow afternoon,” they wrote.
The three sticking points mentioned by Frost and Barnier have prevented a deal for months. Even though a change in the tone of their statements this week suggested a potential rapid breakthrough, the differences remain.
A spokesman for Johnson had said earlier Friday that the talks were at a “very difficult point” and stressed that very little time remains until the end of the post-Brexit transition on Dec. 31.
London placed the blame for the abrupt interruption to the talks on France, which on Friday threatened to veto a future agreement if it believes too many concessions have been made to the British side, especially on the issue of dividing up fishing rights and quotas.
“If there were a deal that isn’t good, which in our evaluation doesn’t correspond to those interests, we will oppose it,” French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune told Europe 1 radio.
Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark also are among the countries most interested in maintaining very similar rights to fish in British waters as they had before Brexit and during the transition (a period in which the UK is still bound by the EU’s rules, including its Common Fisheries Policy).
The UK, however, wants to significantly boost its quota share for fish caught in its waters.
Johnson’s spokesman, for his part, said Friday that the UK will not accept a deal that “doesn’t represent our fundamental principles on sovereignty and taking back control.”
A post-Brexit deal is to be in place by Jan. 1, after the end of the 11-month transition period that was triggered earlier this year when the UK formally left the EU.
If there is no deal in place, the trade system between the UK and the EU will default to less favorable World Trade Organization terms. EFE-EPA