Following the latest round of trade talks led by Boris Johnson’s negotiator David Frost, the European Commission’s Head of Task Force hit out at Britain for sticking to its negotiating red lines and refusing to extend the transition period beyond December 31. In the discussions Mr Barnier also reiterated the EU’s intension to seek a “level playing field” with the UK on a number of core areas including justice, fisheries and regulations.
A number of prominent eurosceptics have since backed the Westminster Government’s hard-line approach and blasted Mr Barnier’s reaction.
Former Brexit Party MEP Rupert Lowe accused Mr Barnier of “petulant” behaviour as the bloc was no longer getting its way.
The former MEP for the West Midlands insisted fishing would be the “acid test” of the talks and stated Mr Barnier was berating the lack of progress because the EU would no longer have access to British waters.
He said: “Barnier sounding petulant about the UK not bowing to the EU’s every demand.
“The usual threats about the level playing field. Shows why Frost was 100 percent right to rule out an extension to the transition.
“Barnier also moaning about there being ‘no progress’ on fisheries. His idea of ‘progress’ is EU fishermen having unfettered access to British waters.
“So on that measurement, there will never be progress! Boris has to stay strong on this one – it’s the acid test.”
Martin Daubney, another former Brexit Party MEP, also dismissed Mr Barnier’s concerns over Brexit and claims the arch-europhile was beginning to panic because the UK will not “surrender its waters to the EU”.
Mr Daubney said: “When Barnier says ‘we made no progress on fisheries’. He means ‘the UK will not continue to surrender its waters to the EU’.
“He also says we ‘the UK cannot refuse to extend the transition period’ – but we can – he wants to have his cake and eat it – No Deal!”
Brexiteer Michael Heaver added: “UK not being pushed around in negotiations anymore and the EU don’t like it.”
The UK and the EU have just two more negotiating rounds on May 11 and June 1 before both sides must agree whether or not to impose an extension of up to two years.
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At a press conference in Brussels Mr Barnier criticised the short timetable, he said: “It’s exceptional, never in the history for such important negotiations with any third country, have we been under such time pressure.
“The UK, therefore, cannot impose this short, brief timeline and at the same time not budge, make progress, on some topics that are of importance to the EU.”
A Downing Street spokeswoman has confirmed there has been “limited progress” between the two sides and highlighted the EU’s offer on a Free Trade Agreement “falls well short”.
She said: “This was a full and constructive negotiating round, conducted remotely by video conference, and with a full range of discussions across all the issues, on the basis of the extensive legal texts provided by both sides in recent weeks.
“However, limited progress was made in bridging the gaps between us and the EU.”
On a potential Free Trade Agreement, she added: “We regret however that the detail of the EU’s offer on goods trade falls well short of recent precedent in FTAs it has agreed with other sovereign countries.
“This considerably reduces the practical value of the zero-tariff zero quota aspiration we both share.”
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