Brexit talks have broken up early for the second week running with Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator warning that “significant divergences” remain.
Angla Merkel had warned the EU yesterday (Wednesday) to prepare for a no-deal outcome after Boris Johnson told the German chancellor on Tuesday that Britain was “ready” to walk away without achieving an agreement.
In setting out the plan’s for Germany’s six-month presidency of the EU, Merkel told the European Parliament in Brussels that “progress in negotiations so far has been slim, to put it diplomatically”, but added that the two sides had agreed to “accelerate the pace of talks” to reach a deal.
‘Inevitable’ disruption from January 1, says Barnier
However, the latest rounds of talks broke up early and saw Barnier urge EU national governments to prepare for “inevitable” disruption from January 1.
The EU’s chief negotiator tweeted that “regardless of the outcome [of the talks] there will be inevitable changes”, having assured the EU “will continue working with patience, respect and determination.”
Barnier had arrived in London, the Independent states, “in time for dinner with UK negotiator David Frost on Tuesday”. The Telegraph states: “Although the latest round was due to run until Friday, things were brought to a halt yesterday [Wednesday], it has emerged. Last week negotiations ended a day earlier than expected.”
July was supposed to have seen the talks between the UK-and-EU “intensified” and though the most recent discussions were described by Downing Street as “constructive”, no breakthroughs were achieved on any of the major sticking blocks such as fishing rights, the “level-playing-field” and the future role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
Downing Street later said the London discussions were “always due to be an informal round of talks”.
Their early break-up coincided with the release of an official EU communication which called on member states to revisit their preparedness for January 2021 given that “negotiations so far have shown little progress”.
The European Commission warned that “the choices made by the United Kingdom’s government on the future relationship and on not extending the transition period mean that these inevitable disruptions will occur as of 1 January 2021 and risk compounding the pressure that businesses are already under due to the COVID-19 outbreak”.
Businesses urged to “revisit preparedness plans’
The communication highlights the “main areas of inevitable change” to “facilitate readiness and preparations by citizens, public administrations, businesses and all other stakeholders for these unavoidable disruptions”, and urged businesses “in particular” to revisit their “existing preparedness plans.”
The EU and UK government both claim to want a deal before the autumn to allow time for its ratification before the end of the UK’s transition period from the EU, which ends on December 31.
If talks result in a no-deal being reached, trade between the UK and EU will be subject to tariffs, border checks and increased bureaucracy.