'We can't go on like this forever': Michel Barnier says 'no progress' made in Brexit talks

James Morris
Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
Michel Barnier said on Friday that there has been no progress following the latest round of Brexit talks between the EU and UK. (European Commission)

Michel Barnier has accused the UK of “seeking to distance themselves” from a Brexit agreement.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator said on Friday “there have been no significant areas of progress” as he warned: “I don’t think we can go on like this forever.”

It comes after the conclusion of a fourth round of “future relationship” talks led by Barnier for the EU and David Frost – Boris Johnson’s chief negotiator – for the UK.

He said the UK “continues to backtrack” on its previous commitments to the EU made under the political declaration agreed in October last year.

Michel Barnier accused Boris Johnson's government of 'backtracking' on its previous agreement. (PA)

“We cannot and will not accept this,” he added.

Barnier said there remains a deadlock on trade, nuclear safety, anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing measures, and fisheries.

He said: “Round after round, our British counterparts seek to distance themselves from this common basis.”

The UK, after leaving the EU on 31 January, is currently in a “transition period” in which the two sides have until 31 December to agree their future relationship.

During the transition period, the UK effectively remains a member of the EU. It can be extended for up to two years, but Downing Street must give notice of this by 30 June.

Barnier said the EU hopes to restart face-to-face talks ahead of this deadline.

He added “the door is still open” for an extension.

Because of the coronavirus crisis, there have been calls for Number 10 to extend the transition period, with leaders primarily focused on the pandemic.

However, the government has insisted it will not be seeking an extension.

There is mounting concern among business – already hit hard by the fallout from the pandemic – at the prospect of a “cliff edge” break to the UK’s remaining access to the EU single market with no new deal to replace it.

Frost, meanwhile, said “progress remains limited but our talks have been positive in tone”.

“Negotiations will continue and we remain committed to a successful outcome.”