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Negotiations on the future relationship between London and Brussels following the Brexit transition period, which is set to end on December 31, have been ongoing for almost six months, but without little success. The UK and European Union negotiating teams have blamed each other for this, with both sides refusing to move on a series of red lines, most notably fisheries, state aid and the EU’s level-playing field. The eighth round of talks starts in London this week, and with Michel Barnier setting a “strict” deadline of October 31 to agree a deal, fears are quickly intensifying over a no deal Brexit outcome.
But ahead of the latest meetings, Boris Johnson has infuriated senior EU officials amid reports the Government will table new legislation, which threatens to override key elements of the withdrawal agreement.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said the Government is proposing “limited clarifications” to the law to ensure ministers can preserve the gains of the Good Friday Agreement in the event of no deal outcome between the two sides.
Mr Johnson has also piled further pressure onto the EU by insisting there needs to be an agreement in place by October 15 for it to be fully implemented before the end of the transition period.
Austrian MEP Andreas Schieder, who is acting leader of the Social Democratic Party in the National Council, has launched a scathing attack against Mr Johnson and the negotiating tactics employed by his Government in current trade talks with the EU.
He told Austrian new website OTS: “Instead of finally showing an honest willingness to negotiate, Prime Minister Johnson continues to play his irresponsible game.
“The negotiation of the Tories is just grotesque.
“The future relationship between the EU and Great Britain does not need threatening gestures, but a deal based on the exit agreement.”
Mr Schieder acknowledged Britain’s departure from the EU is a “sad story” and has backed attempts from Mr Barnier to campaign for the rights of citizens on both sides in talks.
But he warned the possibility of a no deal Brexit is “far from over” and has demanded Britain “accommodate” the EU “sooner rather than later”.
The Austrian MEP raged: “In the EU Parliament we have been campaigning for the rights of citizens on both sides of the English Channel since the beginning of this sad story.
“This is also what EU chief negotiator Barnier represents. Unfortunately, at the beginning of the next round of negotiations, it is clear once again that the danger of a Brexit without a deal is far from over – and the high price would be paid by employees and consumers.
“In order to finally make progress on the agreement, Great Britain has to accommodate the EU – sooner rather than later.”
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On Monday, Downing Street insisted the Government was not looking to backtrack on previous commitments made in the withdrawal agreement.
Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: “We are fully committed to implementing the withdrawal agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol and we have already taken many practical steps to do.”
He insisted the Prime Minister has made clear the need for significant progress this week when talks on a free trade deal resume in London.
The spokesman added: “We can’t be in the same position as we are now by the end of the upcoming negotiating round if we are going to reach an agreement in the time available.
“As the Prime Minister is setting out today, there needs to be an agreement by the time of the European Council on October 15 if it is going to be in force by the end of the year.
“Reaching a deal at the eleventh hour is not an option.”
He also insisted a no deal would still be a “good outcome for the UK”.
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.
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