Brexit Talks Hit Stalemate After Chief Negotiators’ Call

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Talks between Britain and the European Union over a post-Brexit trade deal are mired in a stalemate after a call between the two sides’ chief negotiators concluded without a breakthrough.

David Frost and Michel Barnier held discussions for the second day running on Tuesday as they tried to restart talks that were suspended by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday.

“Our door remains open,” Barnier tweeted after the call. “We should be making the most out of the little time left.”

But a Downing Street spokesman said that while Tuesday’s conversation between the negotiating chiefs was constructive, “the situation remained as yesterday, and they will remain in contact.”

The half-hour call came after the U.K. rebuffed the EU’s push to revive the deadlocked trade talks, holding out for more concessions from the bloc. On Monday, Barnier said he would be willing to intensify the discussions and begin work on the legal text -- going some way to meeting two of the U.K.’s key demands.

The U.K. is calling for what Johnson has called a fundamental change of approach before it is prepared to reopen talks. Without a trade deal, consumers and businesses will face the cost and disruption of tariffs and quotas in just 10 weeks’ time.

“Movement needs to come from the EU side as well as the U.K.,” James Slack, a Downing Street spokesman, told reporters earlier on Tuesday. The U.K. needs a “clear assurance from the EU that it has made a fundamental change in the talks, and this is going to be a genuine negotiation rather than one side making all the moves.”

The U.K. government argues that the EU has run down the clock and hasn’t negotiated in good faith by refusing to start drafting a legal text in the seven months since negotiations began. It has also criticized the bloc for being reluctant to hold intensive discussions. The EU has said it is waiting for the U.K. to make serious offers to compromise.

Meanwhile, the House of Lords inflicted a defeat on Johnson as peers voted by 395 to 169 to protest the government’s Internal Market Bill. The rare motion of “regret” is a sign the bill is likely to be extensively rewritten at a later stage by the unelected upper house.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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