To no one’s great surprise, Michel Barnier has made a very downbeat statement following the latest round of UK-EU trade negotiations. He has declared that ‘there’s been no significant progress since the start of these talks', accused the UK of backsliding on the political declaration and warned that he doesn’t think the talks ‘can go on like this forever.’
Now, in the Q&A session with journalists that followed, Barnier did seem to indicate some flex on the EU's demand that state aid rules continue to apply in this country after Brexit. He also said that a deal was still possible.
Boris Johnson’s chief negotiator David Frost was not quite as negative as Barnier in his summary of the talks, but he admits ‘progress remains limited’ and that 'we are close to reaching the limits of what we can through the format of remote formal rounds’. The UK side is more optimistic than the EU that some face to face diplomacy – with people being able to informally float ideas – might lead to some progress.
What’s clear is that the current stalemate can’t be broken without a political intervention. Much now turns on the high-level meeting at the end of this month between Boris Johnson and the presidents of the Council and Commission. This will tell us whether the two sides are prepared to compromise to try and do a deal or whether the UK and the EU will be trading on World Trade Organisation terms from the start of next year.