Road transport derails Brexit talks

London, UK: Brexit talks have stalled again with road transport one of the major stumbling blocks.

The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier said what is happening in terms of transport is “just one example of the consequences of the Brexit vote”.

Barnier lodged his warning on Friday at the close of the seventh round of trade talks. The EU is determined that there will be a level playing field between EU companies and UK operators. A level-playing field is about “workers rights and consumer rights”, Barnier says.

The British continue to want the benefits of the single market – for UK hauliers, for example – without paying the membership fee or signing up to its rules. British negotiators “do not want certain standards to apply to certain carriers when they are on the continent”, such as working hours and rest times, he says. 

“They have refused to agree to these guarantees on the one hand, but on the other they are asking for a level of access to the Single Market that is akin to remaining a member,” he says.

“Why should we give access to our roads and our transport firms that would not be subject to same… minimum standards and safety?”

A Brexit deal is ‘unlikely’ says Barnier, who warns that talks were ‘going backwards’.  A Brexit deal at this stage “seems unlikely”, Barnier has said. 

“Too often this week it felt as if we were going backwards more than forwards,” he says.

“Today, at this stage, an agreement between the EU and UK seems unlikely. I simply do not understand why we are wasting valuable time.”

There is no point delaying the more difficult issues until later in the talks, Barnier says. 

Boris Johnson stressed his desire to reach a deal during his meeting with Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin last week, he says. 

The EU agrees and think it is possible, but progress must be made. 
Negotiations this week over the proposed EU-UK trade deal remain stalled on multiple fronts, leaving the two sides little time to strike a deal for when the transition period ends.

Participants had low expectations for imminent progress during this week’s round of talks in Brussels, with fishing rights and state subsidies the two other key sticking points.

Both sides are pushing to have a deal in place by the end of a post-Brexit transition period that ends on 31 December. The Europeans said this requires an agreement by October, leaving just two more months to find common ground while the toughest obstacles remain.

A European source said the UK was pushing to delay negotiation on toughest issues until as late as possible, a strategy that frustrates Brussels. “On these two pillars of a future agreement, the stalemate continues. You can’t keep moving forward on other issues when you have a gaping hole on the core issues,” the source said.

The next round of talks will be held in London on September 7.

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