Michel Barnier Accused Boris Johnson of Not Keeping His Promises

Andrew Cummings
June 3, 2020

Mr Frost: "Well first of all I would say it's not our preference, we would like to get a deal and certainly my letter was not meant to signal that we were looking not to reach an agreement, far from it".

'The UK has been taking a step again - two steps again, three steps again - from the unique commitments, ' Mr Barnier stated.

Jun Du, professor of economics at Aston Business School, said: "This evidence suggests that UK exporters are jumping before they're pushed - finding alternative markets worldwide for their products even before we know the outcome of the current UK-EU trade negotiations and any potential new barriers".

Therefore, the next step in the talks was "damage limitation" and, if no agreement was reached, that would result in "even more consequences" at the worst time possible. "And then of course those will be added to the already very serious consequences of the coronavirus crisis", Barnier said.

"So I think that's just part of the framework now and we're working to an end-year deadline".

Barnier has complained that Frost's more aggressive "tone" in pushing the British case in an exchange of letters last month could disrupt progress.

Yesterday, Mr Barnier accused United Kingdom negotiators of reneging on the commitments Mr Johnson signed up to in a non-binding political declaration that accompanied the sides' formal divorce deal agreed late a year ago.

"Very little progress in reality has been made on those talks but that is often the way talks go", he said.

"We won't agree to any European Union demands for us to give up our rights as an independent state".

But, with so much at stake, nobody expects the talks to break down irretrievably either.

With the sides camped out in conflicting visions of the way ahead, few experts expect this week's talks - specialist committees Tuesday to Thursday, then Frost and Barnier on Friday - to bear fruit.

"Barnier and Frost are saying the same thing, a no deal is perfectly plausible".

'I think we need to move beyond the kind of idea that signing up to global commitments that are legally binding would have some kind of threat to national democracy, ' he told a panel at the Institute for Government think-tank. The group of peers said: "The combination of uncertainty, lack of momentum and lack of time, compounded by the shock of the Covid-19 pandemic, is a potent threat to economic prosperity and political stability in Northern Ireland".

"They will probably say that both sides are willing to continue talking", he told AFP. "If we get a compromise it will come very late in the talks, in the autumn".

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