EU and UK officials are due to resume intensive negotiations in Brussels this morning on a future relationship treaty.
Both sides are said to be still far apart on the most difficult issues.
The UK’s chief negotiator has said he will not be changing the UK
position that any deal must be compatible with what he called British
sovereignty, and taking back control of its laws, trade and waters.
David Frost’s tweet that he would not be changing tack was a clear
warning that the political upheaval in Downing Street last week,
especially chief advisor Dominic Cummings’ dramatic departure, did not
mean that, with the Vote Leave faction neutered, Britain would be
softening its stance in the negotiations.
While the level playing field, governance and fisheries remain the
key stumbling blocks, the focus is now on the so-called non-regression
These would be designed to ensure that when producing goods to be sold in each other’s markets, both sides would stick to the same standards on things such as labour and employment law, as well as environmental, climate change and taxation standards.
The EU has insisted on an evolution clause so that both sides do not drift apart on standards over time.
The UK is resisting this, and also the fact that the baseline would
be the current standards that the EU applies, and which Britain still
applies up until 1 January.
On fisheries, senior figures say that both sides are “miles apart”.
It is understood that a joint legal text has been progressed on the
non-contentious areas, although key paragraphs have yet to be closed, a
reminder that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.
The text is said to be over 600 pages long, including annexes.
For that reason, both member states, and the European Parliament, who
have not yet seen the text, will want as much time to analyse it as
That is why they say the end of this week, or early next week, must be the absolute deadline for an agreement.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said it will be difficult but doable to finalise a Brexit trade deal.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Coveney said there has not been
any success in closing the gap between both sides and until this can be
found, there will not be an agreement.
He said time is running out and that Britain’s red lines have changed
over the last 12 months but the EU has been remarkably consistent,
respectful but also firm on following through on what was agreed in the