London, United Kingdom—Britain on Monday welcomed signals that the European Union was ready to intensify stalled post-Brexit trade talks, but said its commitments did not yet go far enough to restart face-to-face negotiations.
Britain’s chief negotiator David Frost said he held a “constructive discussion” with his EU counterpart Michel Barnier, with the bloc confirming it is willing to hold ramped-up talks this week “based on legal texts.”
“But the EU still needs to make a fundamental change in approach to the talks and make clear it has done so,” Frost added on Twitter, noting the two sides “will stay in close touch.”
A spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson echoed the sentiment, noting: “The UK continues to believe there is no basis to resume talks unless there is a fundamental change of approach from the EU.”
Britain, which left the EU in January but remains bound by most of the bloc’s rules until a transition period ends on December 31, has accused Brussels of stalling negotiations on a future trade deal.
Following an EU summit last week at which European leaders said London needed to make the further compromises, Johnson revoked an invitation for Barnier to come to London this week and said the country was readying for a so-called no-deal Brexit on January 1.
The prime minister accuses Brussels of refusing to recognize Britain’s new-found sovereignty from next year in areas such as fishing and state aid, and needs to shift its stances for a deal.
Those are two of the biggest stumbling blocks holding up an overarching trade agreement once the UK goes its own way after 45 years of European integration.
In the absence of a deal, Britain and the EU would trade on a barebones arrangement governed by World Trade Organization (WTO) tariffs and quotas, which would be disruptive at best and ruinous at worst for many businesses.
Senior minister Michael Gove on Monday launched an information campaign advising businesses that “time is running out” to be ready for a complex new trading chapter from 2021, deal or no deal.
But industry groups warned anew of potential chaos for road haulers and the possibility of drugs shortages, with vital preparations by Britain’s government still in the early stages.
Confederation of British Industry deputy chief Josh Hardie said a “hat-trick of unprecedented challenges” loomed thanks to the coronavirus pandemic and “uncertainty over the UK’s trading relationship with the EU.”