The Times has quoted unnamed diplomatic sources as saying that the UK may signal its readiness to reach a consensus with the EU on trade regulations and fisheries if Brussels scraps its “maximalist” demands on the matter.
One of the sources claimed that “there is only one way to get things moving and that is for the UK side to move and then, as [British chief negotiator David] Frost knows full well, the EU will move too”.
According to the source, the EU made it clear that it would “do the best we can to get an agreement”, but that it would “just continue talking next year if necessary”.
A highly placed UK official, in turn, reportedly warned that if the British government sees no significant signs of progress in talks by this autumn, they will withdraw from the talks and focus on exiting without a trade deal.
The remarks come as a fourth round of online EU-UK negotiations kicks off later on Tuesday, with the sides due to discuss fisheries, “a level playing field for open and fair competition”, as well as the “governance” of how new possible agreements will be legally shaped and implemented.
Frost earlier underscored that London refuses to treat its fisheries as a bargaining chip in the talks, and that any agreement has to accommodate the reality that the UK will maintain control of its own waters. According to Britain's chief negotiator, EU access to British waters will run counter to the very idea of Brexit.
As far as “level playing field” trade rules are concerned, London is urging Brussels to abandon a demand that the UK adhere to the EU’s state aid and competition laws after the end of the transition period. The British source said in this context that “there can be no question of the UK having oversight of the European Court of Justice”.
Barnier Warns of No-Deal Brexit Risk
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, for his part, warned of a possible no-deal Brexit if London fails to stick to the political declaration signed with the European Commission.
He told The Times last week that there would not be an agreement “at any cost” and that “the UK has been taking a step back — two steps back, three steps back — from the original commitments”.
The two sides currently remain at odds over the post-Brexit trade talks as Barnier and Frost are blaming each other for a potential stalemate. The EU official insists that a "new dynamism" is needed in the negotiations, while Frost argues that the EU's proposed deal "contains novel and unbalanced proposals which would bind this country to EU law or standards".
London wants to secure a trade agreement, prioritising issues such as air transport, energy, and law enforcement. Brussels, in turn, is pushing for a deal which could stipulate access to the UK's fishing waters, something that was earlier rejected by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.