EU negotiator says Brexit trade deal agreement is “unlikely”

Support us and go ad-free

The Brussels and UK chief negotiators have aired mixed messages over the likelihood of a post-Brexit trade deal following the conclusion of their latest London-round of talks. The European Union’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said a deal looked “unlikely” and that the two sides remained at a stalemate.

The UK take

David Frost, the UK’s chief negotiator, meanwhile confirmed there was a continued impasse but struck a more hopeful tone in his media appearance following intensified discussions. He said an “agreement can still be reached in September” but called for the EU to recognise it was in discussions with an “independent state”.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Barnier warned the “time for answers is quickly running out”. He also said:

By its current refusal to commit to the condition of open and fair competition, and to a balanced agreement on fisheries, the UK makes a trade agreement at this point unlikely

But a senior UK government source involved in the negotiations, when asked about Barnier’s comments, said they were a “truism” given the current situation but argued “things can move forward”.


The UK’s transition period for leaving the EU is due to lapse at the end of December, and both sides have said any trade deal needs to be concluded by October in order to be ratified. Frost told broadcasters that “considerable gaps remain in the most difficult areas”. But he added:

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Despite all the difficulties, on the basis of the work we have done in July, my assessment is that agreement can still be reached in September, and that we should continue to negotiate with this aim in mind.

The former Foreign Office official warned, however, that without movement on the most significant issues, a no-deal scenario remained an option. He said:

We have made progress in areas like trade, trade of goods and services, transport, social security cooperation, EU programmes, participation and so on, which is good.

But nevertheless big differences do remain, in particular with the familiar questions of the… so-called level playing field and fisheries policy.

We’re in a negotiation. Either outcome is possible. We will work energetically to get a deal but it is possible we won’t reach one.

EU negotiator Michel Barnier said the UK’s position on fisheries is ‘unacceptable’ (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Fishing expedition

Barnier told reporters the UK’s position on fisheries was “simply unacceptable”. “The UK is effectively seeking for near-total exclusion of fishing vessels from the UK’s water”, he said.

A senior UK government source said that while the UK would have the “right to control the economic exploitation” of its fishing grounds after the transition period, talk of exclusion was incorrect. The source continued:

That doesn’t necessarily require the exclusion of EU trawlers from our waters.

What it means is an agreed abatement in which we have the right to control access to that zone – and that is what at the moment they find difficult to accept.

Until they do, it is going to be difficult to get to a fisheries agreement.


Barnier also said the UK “refuses to commit to maintaining high standards in a meaningful way” and that “no progress at all” had been made on state aid.

“This is all the more worrying because we have no visibility on the UK’s intention on its future domestic subsidy control system and regime”, added the former French cabinet minister. He said the EU had engaged “sincerely” on the UK’s “red lines”, adding:

Over the past few weeks the UK has not shown the same level of engagement and readiness to find solutions respecting the EU fundamental principles and interests.

Barnier told reporters the EU and UK had until “October at the latest” to strike a deal or risk the imposition of quotas and tariffs and called for both sides to “not waste” the time left. Talks are now due to intensify over the summer, with the UK proposing to move into a “textual negotiation to get into the detail”.

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us