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EU wants to intensify Brexit trade talks with UK, amid concerns over ‘serious divergences’

EU wants to intensify Brexit trade talks with UK, amid concerns over ‘serious divergences’
The European Commission chief believes Brexit trade talks should be intensified as the deadline looms, as Brussels’ lead negotiator says the latest round ended with “persistent serious divergences” from the UK on important issues.

The EU’s negotiator, Michel Barnier, noted on Friday that the parties had made fresh progress on aviation safety and safeguards of fundamental rights. There was no movement, however, on personal data protection or carbon pricing, he said, and flagged “persistent serious divergences on matters of major importance for the European Union.” 

Any economic deal with the UK must include “solid, long-term guarantees of open and fair competition,” Barnier said in his summary of the latest round.

Barnier’s British counterpart, David Frost, said he sees major disagreements remaining in the talks on the UK’s future relationship with the bloc. Noting “limited” progress on state aid rules, Frost said “the EU need to move further before an understanding can be reached.”

He also said the gap on fisheries remains “very large” and may prove “impossible to bridge” while again calling for the EU to show greater flexibility. 

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“These issues are fundamental to our future status as an independent country,” Frost said. “I am concerned that there is very little time now to resolve these issues ahead of the European Council on 15 October.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen sounded more optimistic after the week’s EU summit, saying on Friday that it was time to “intensify” the talks, adding: “We have made progress on many, many difficult fields but the main ones all remain very much open.” 

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to speak to von der Leyen on Saturday. Their meeting comes just days after the EU launched legal action against the UK over the latter’s new Internal Market Bill, which threatens to breach elements of the Brexit withdrawal agreement if enacted.

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