U.K. Hopes Barnier Will Show Flexibility on Brexit Trade Deal

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(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. said it still hopes that the European Union’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, will make concessions to allow for a zero-tariff, zero-quota agreement with the bloc by the end of this year -- even after EU countries refused to change his mandate.

On contentious issues such as access to fishing waters and state aid, Barnier “has indicated that he is inclined to move,” Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove told Parliament on Thursday. He said it would be in everyone’s interest if Barnier “were able to use the flexibility that he has deployed in the past in order to secure an arrangement.”

Gove’s words highlight how the British government wants the EU to shift its negotiating position in order to avoid a economically-damaging rupture from the bloc at the end of 2020. However, yesterday, EU government envoys unanimously rejected demands to amend Barnier’s mandate to allow him to offer more concessions to the U.K. The standoff means an an imminent breakthrough is unlikely, and the risk of a no-deal split is increasing.

For its part, Britain says it will not extend the trade talks beyond 2020. Gove reiterated that the government won’t compromise on its demands to take back control of British fishing waters and to end the role of EU courts in the country.

“The government is holding the EU to account for its commitment to secure a zero-tariff, zero-quota deal and to use its best endeavors,” Gove said, when asked about the danger to businesses of an economic shock later this year. “I have confidence the EU will do that.”

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