The UK has blamed Brussels for having made “limited progress” during the second round of negotiations on a future post-Brexit trade deal.
Negotiators have warned their counterparts across the Channel that Britain will “not subordinate” its laws to the European Union “in any areas” and called for more flexibility from the bloc in order to strike a deal.
The EU’s negotiation mandate stated that the UK must sign up to some Brussels-set regulations to prevent the bloc being undercut on standards once the transition period ends in December.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, last week accused the UK of refusing to commit “seriously” on numerous fundamental points during the talks, which took place via video-conferencing technology because of the coronavirus pandemic.
But, in a sign of deep-rooted tensions between the two sides, Britain has dug in on what it calls “fundamentals” for any independent country and said it is the EU’s “insistence on extra provision” that is “slowing us up”.
EU demands for a level playing field, aspects on governance and continued access to British waters for European fishing boats are stumbling blocks, according to insiders.
Briefing journalists on the progress of the negotiations, a source close to the UK negotiating team said: “If they (the EU) continue to insist on their position on a so-called level playing field and on continuing the Common Fisheries Policy, for example, we are never going to accept that.
“Draw your own conclusion from that but I hope they will move on.”
They added: “They need to get themselves into a position where they can do a deal.”
Asked what it would take for the UK to accept a deal, the source told reporters that “what we are wanting now is an EU understanding that we are not going to subordinate our laws to them in any areas”.
“If we can see they understand the importance of that, then I think we are going to be able to reach an agreement,” they continued.
“At the moment, I’m not sure they quite have, but then maybe it takes a little time for this to sink in.”
Rights as an independent nation would include setting its own fishing rules and having a mechanism for resolving trade disputes that did not involve European judges.
“There are some fundamentals that we are not going to change, we are not going to move on, because not so much that they are negotiation positions as they are what an independent state does,” they added.
The Prime Minister has been briefed on the “general issues” since his return to work this week following his brush with coronavirus, negotiators have confirmed.
A source predicted that Boris Johnson would need to get more involved in time for the crunch meetings in June, when agreements on fisheries and financial arrangements are due to be made.
The PM has regularly ruled out extending the trade talks into 2021, despite the coronavirus outbreak putting most of Europe under lockdown.
The source said: “(The PM) needs to get involved when we are settling or dealing with the most sensitive political aspects of this negotiation and we are probably not quite at that point yet.
“In the run-up to that (meeting in June), I imagine he would want to be involved in setting the context for that.”
His team reiterated that it is “natural and inevitable” that they would plan to exit the transition period without a deal should progress not be made in the coming months.