'Serious divergences' in talks between EU and UK

Michel Barnier, the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, warned of “serious divergences” with the UK after the two sides ended their first week of negotiations over their future relationship.

'Serious divergences' in talks between EU and UK

Michel Barnier, the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, warned of “serious divergences” with the UK after the two sides ended their first week of negotiations over their future relationship.

And he rebuffed a request from the British government to wrap up an early deal on access to the single market for London’s banks.

Speaking to reporters in Brussels yesterday, Barnier said the two sides are at loggerheads on four key issues: competition policy, where the EU wants the UK to commit to a so-called level playing field to prevent its economy being undercut; criminal justice and law enforcement, where the UK says it wants to withdraw from the European Court of Justice and the European Convention on Human Rights, something the EU opposes; fishing, where the EU wants continued access to British waters; the way any deal would be structured.

Britain favors a series of mini-agreements in case some issues become impossible to resolve, while the EU insists there must be one all-encompassing deal.

“There are many serious divergences,” Barnier said. But “an agreement is possible -- even if difficult,” he added.

As the talks began earlier this week, officials were privately downbeat on the chances of an agreement, while British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has threatened to walk away if no deal is in sight by June. But on Thursday, both sides described the first round of talks as “constructive.”

“The mood music was better than expected,” EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan told reporters in Dublin on Thursday. “Once the initial skirmishing is out of the way, hopefully we can make a lot of progress between now and the end of June.”

Brussels has made any trade deal conditional on the two sides reaching an accord on fish.

More in this section

Budget 2022 Logo

What impact will this  year's budget have on you and your business.

The Business Hub
Newsletter

News and analysis on business, money and jobs from Munster and beyond by our expert team of business writers.

Sign up
Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.

Lunchtime
News Wrap

A lunchtime summary of content highlights on the Irish Examiner website. Delivered at 1pm each day.

Sign up
Revoiced
Newsletter

Our Covid-free newsletter brings together some of the best bits from irishexaminer.com, as chosen by our editor, direct to your inbox every Monday.

Sign up