EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has admitted the bloc is scrambling to put together a legal text in advance of next week’s crunch talks after it was revealed UK negotiators were ahead of the game.
Meanwhile UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has issued a stern response to Ursula von der Leyen after the EU Commission President ordered the UK to “make up its mind” on what it wants from Brexit talks. Speaking at the European Parliament after a meeting with MPs, Mr Barnier was questioned about the UK’s plans to present a draft treaty text. In a strong hint the EU would do likewise, he said: ““It’s always useful, in this very short time, to work on legal text – on both sides. On both sides, on both sides.”
Mr Johnson has presented the EU chief with a detailed report of the first round of trade negotiations which took place in Brussels last week. The published document also references the mandate for talks on the future relationship and the 11 core topics including trade, fisheries and law.
In a statement released by Number 10, Michael Gove made it clear to the bloc the UK would “regain its economic and political independence in full”.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said: “Discussions in some areas identified a degree of common understanding of the ground that future talks could cover.
“In other areas, notably fisheries, governance and dispute settlement, and the so-called ‘level playing field’, there were, as expected, significant differences.”
David Frost, the Prime Minister’s chief Brexit negotiator, also pointed the bloc towards the statement and insisted the UK would publish a legal text before the second round of talks on March 18-20.
The response from Downing Street comes after Ms von der Leyen acknowledged there were “differences in the approach”.
The EU chief shifted the blame towards the UK for the lack of progress and insisted Britain must decide whether it wanted access to the EU single market.
She said: “We are are aware that there are differences in the approach towards what scope should the future agreement have and what are – if I may say so – the rules of the game everybody has to abide to.
“So it will be important that the UK makes up its mind – the closer they want to have access to the single market, the more they have to play by the rules that are the rules of the single market.
“If this is not the UK’s choice then of course they will be more distant and it will be more difficult for the UK to access the single market.
“So I think it’s up to the UK within the negotiations to think about the trade-offs they want to take into account.”