BRUSSELS/LONDON – European Union’s lead negotiator Michel Barnier accused the United Kingdom of refusing to “engage seriously on a range of fundamental points” after the second round of negotiations on their post-Brexit relations on Friday.
“The United Kingdom cannot refuse to extend the transition and at the same time slow down progress in important areas,” Barnier said, expressing concern that Britain has not presented concrete proposals for certain contentious issues, but did not name the areas, according to DPA news agency.
The European Union and the United Kingdom resumed stalled negotiations on Monday, with their teams beginning a week-long video conference. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government insists negotiations on a wide range of sensitive topics from security cooperation to fisheries must be wrapped by the official December 31 deadline.
The United Kingdom left the European Union at the end of January but entered a transition period, which means that practically nothing changed in everyday life. The country still remains in the EU internal market and customs union, adheres to EU rules and even pays into the budget.
If no agreement is struck within the transition period, there will be a hard departure with turbulent repercussions for the economies of both the United Kingdom and the European Union, although the EU’s much larger and more powerful economy, along with its massive internal market, is likely to be hit less than the UK.
In the first round of negotiations at the beginning of March, both sides found that their ideas were far apart. Negotiations were put on hold by the spread of COVID-19, which Barnier himself contracted. The next two-week-long rounds are planned for mid-May and early June. The latter meeting will be a crucial one: The end of June is the deadline for Britain to request an extension of the transition period.