‘Not for sale!’ Michel Barnier desperately clings onto EU demands as Brexit talks stall
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Barnier’s statement on Wednesday will do little to oil the wheels of the trade negotiations between the UK and the EU, which have been at an impasse for several weeks.
These level playing field demands refer to competition rules that will be established so that business can be conducted on equal terms – or something close to it – between the UK and the EU.
But they’ve been a key sticking point, with both parties failing to agree on an outcome that would suit them both.
However, Barnier did say that he was willing to work on “clever compromises” in order to get trade deal through the door, the Telegraph has claimed.
Barnier has signalled such compromises before, but it hasn’t been clear what sort of compromises the negotiator would be willing to accept.
In last week’s high-level meeting between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen – President of the European Commission – it was agreed that “new momentum” was needed in order to get the talks moving again.
Negotiators had already agreed that there would be a new, more intense negotiation timetable for July.
Both parties are seeking to draw up an agreement before the end of the year, after Johnson made it clear that the UK would not accept any extension to the Brexit transition period.
It remains to be seen whether the more intense meetings will bear fruit.
Following the high-level meeting with between EU officials and the Prime Minister last week, President of the European Parliament David Sassoli, who was present at the meetings, said Johnson appeared unwilling to budge on the UK’s demands.
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In an interview with the Guardian, Sassoli claimed that there was not “a great deal of enthusiasm from the British authorities” to come to an agreement on the thorny issues that have put the brakes on trade talks.
Sassoli added that the agreement would clearly have to been seen by both parties as not benefiting one over the other, and in this he said “we are frankly a little bit worried”.
Earlier this week the Guardian also revealed that a new trade talk obstacle had arisen after the two sides clashed over 70 billion Euros’ worth of subsidies granted to European farmers by Brussels.
The UK side claimed that Barnier was blocking the British government from defending UK farmers against lower-priced imports from the EU, the Guardian said, based on a clause in the EU’s proposed free trade deal that barred “anti-subsidy proceedings” against the payments.
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These farmer subsidies are referred to as “green box payments” and essentially amount to income support for farmers regardless of production levels or pricing. The UK has them too.
Meanwhile the European Commission has stressed the importance of GDPR, the EU’s widely-known data protection rules, as part of any future relationship between it and the UK.
EU officials said that data protection rules would be an “essential prerequisite” for security between the two.
EU justice commissioner Didier Reynders said: “When it comes to data transfer with a member that is leaving, the UK, we want to make sure that in any Brexit agreement there is the proper application of the rules of the GDPR both on the European continent and in the UK.”
Reportedly, the Commission is currently investigating whether the UK’s data protection standards are up to EU standards.
Boris Johnson said in February that the UK would develop its own policies regarding data protection that would be up to high standards.
This might end up affecting whether or not the UK is given access to the EU’s crime database.
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