LONDON/BRUSSELS: European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier wants a few more concessions from Britain before entering the last intense phase of negotiations on a trade deal, an EU diplomat said on Friday, as an Oct. 15 deadline looms.
The United Kingdom formally left the EU on Jan. 31, but more than fours years since voting 52%-48% for Brexit in a 2016 referendum, the two sides are haggling over a trade deal that would kick in when informal membership ends on Dec. 31.
The two chief negotiators, Barnier and Britain’s David Frost, say they are inching towards a deal, though they have underscored that important gaps remain on fishing, level playing field issues and governance. Both sides have no-deal plans.
Barnier, who left London on Friday just 12 hours after arriving, wants a few more concessions from Britain before entering the so called “tunnel” the final stretch of highly secretive, make-or-break negotiations. “We need to get a little bit more from the UK side before he (Barnier) is ready to enter the tunnel,” said a senior EU diplomat.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said some progress had been made but the two sides did not yet see eye to eye on all matters.
“We’ve had useful discussions this week and progress has been made in some areas. However, there still remain differences on some important issues,” the spokesman said.