By SAMUEL PETREQUIN
By SAMUEL PETREQUIN
Though the talks have made little headway, Britain appears to have softened its combative stance toward the EU. Johnson had previously threatened to walk away from negotiations if there was no progress by his June meeting with EU chiefs.
Johnson’s spokesman, James Slack, said Monday’s meeting was a chance to take stock and “push the negotiations forward.” He said the U.K.’s aim was now to strike a deal by the end of the summer and Johnson said there was “no reason" a deal could not be reached in July.
“It’s very clear what we need to achieve. I don’t think we’re actually that far apart,” Johnson said in a televised interview. “I certainly don’t want to see it going on to the autumn, winter as I think perhaps in Brussels they would like."
The parties disagree notably on regulations for businesses and for the fishing industry in particular, with the U.K. adamantly opposed to EU demands for long-term access to British waters. Earlier this month, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier insisted a trade deal remains possible but said an agreement on fisheries is required for a compromise.
In a message posted on Twitter, Michel said he will assess the progress made with member states later this week during a virtual summit of EU heads of state and governments, warning they will “never accept an agreement that goes against interests of the Union."
The U.K. left the political institutions of the EU on Jan. 31 but remains inside the EU’s tariff-free economic zone until the end of the year. This transition period could have been extended by two years but the U.K. made clear last week it would not seek a prolongation.
In their statement, the U.K. and the EU insisted on the need to intensify the talks in July and to create conditions for an accord to be ratified in time and avoid a no-deal scenario which would see tariffs and other restrictions imposed.
“This should include, if possible, finding an early understanding on the principles underlying any agreement,” they said.
Teams of negotiators from both sides expressed hopes last week that the planned resumption of face-to-face meetings would help find a way out of the impasse.
Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.
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