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EU Negotiator Says Timely Brexit Deal 'Unlikely'

By VOA News August 21, 2020

The European Union's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said Friday the latest round of trade talks with Britain was at a stalemate and a deal at this time looks "unlikely."

Speaking at a news conference in Brussels following the conclusion of the seventh round of trade talks, Barnier said the talks bogged down again on a few key issues, mainly fishing rights and competition rules.

He said those hoping for swift negotiations this week will be disappointed, and he expressed his own frustration with the talks, saying, "Too often this week it felt as if we were going backwards rather than forwards." He added he was concerned they were running out of time.

Britain's Brexit negotiator, David Frost, expressed similar frustration, telling reporters the EU is still insisting not only that Britain must accept EU state aid and fisheries policies, "but also that this must be agreed before any further substantive work can be done in any other area of the negotiation."

Britain is seeking a free trade pact similar to one the EU negotiated with Canada. The EU wants to ensure both sides have similar rules on a wide range of issues, including worker rights, the environment and government subsidies, before discussing such an agreement.

Both sides are pushing to have a deal in place by the end of a post-Brexit transition period on Dec. 31. The EU says that means they need a deal by October so member states will have time to consider and vote on it.

If no deal is struck, trade rules and regulations will default to minimum standards set by the World Trade Organization, bringing higher tariffs and making onerous demands on business and bringing chaos to cross-Channel trade.

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