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UPDATE 3-Scant progress in EU-UK negotiations, hopes for a deal fade

Fri, 21st Aug 2020 09:24

(Updates with comments from Barnier and Frost)

By Gabriela Baczynska and Kate Holton

BRUSSELS/LONDON, Aug 21 (Reuters) - British and European
Union negotiators made scant progress towards a deal on future
ties in talks this week, they said on Friday, and both sides
voiced concern that time is running out to reach an agreement
before an end-year deadline.

"Those who were hoping for negotiations to move swiftly
forward this week will have been disappointed," the EU's chief
negotiator, Michel Barnier, told a news conference after two
full days of talks in Brussels.

His British counterpart David Frost said a deal on
post-Brexit relations was "still possible" and was still
London's goal but would not be easy to achieve.

"There are ... significant areas which remain to be resolved
and even where there is a broad understanding between
negotiators, there is a lot of detail to work through," Frost
said in a statement. "Time is short for both sides."

After 46 years of membership, Britain became the first
country ever to leave the EU on Jan. 31. The two are now
negotiating a new partnership, to be effective from 2021, on
everything from trade and transport to energy and security.

Disagreements over state aid rules and fishing quotas have
so far thwarted a deal, which the EU says must be in the making
in time to be approved at an Oct. 15-16 summit of the bloc's 27
national leaders to enable ratification this year.

Beyond the biggest stumbling blocks, differences also linger
in discussions on migration, security, dispute-settling
mechanisms, human rights guarantees and other areas.

With the coronavirus pandemic wreaking economic havoc and
both sides of the Channel wanting to avoid an even deeper
recession, EU sources had been relatively upbeat in recent weeks
that an agreement could be reached on time.

Barnier sounded downbeat on Friday, however, saying he was
"disappointed and concerned" because British Prime Minister
Boris Johnson had told the EU he wanted to speed up the
negotiating process over the summer.

"This week, once again, as in the July round, the British
negotiators have not shown any real willingness to move forward
on issues of fundamental importance for the European Union,"
Barnier said. "And this despite the flexibility which we have
shown over recent months."

He said negotiations too often appeared to be going
backwards this week rather than forwards and so, at this stage,
an agreement looked unlikely.

"On the European side, we are very concerned about the state
of play in our negotiations. The clock is ticking," Barnier
said.

An EU diplomat said few had expected significant progress
this month, and there are better prospects for headway to be
made in the next round of negotiations, which will be held in
London during the second week of September.

(Additional reporting by John Chalmers and Kate Abnett
Writing by John Chalmers
Editing by Catherine Evans)

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