Britain and the European Union are attempting to breathe life into post-Brexit trade talks that appeared all but dead last week, with each telling the other it needs to fundamentally change course.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday there was no point in continuing talks and it was time to prepare for a ‘no-deal’ exit when transitional arrangements end on December 31.
But Michael Gove, one of his senior ministers, struck a more conciliatory tone on Sunday, saying the door was still ajar to a deal if the bloc was willing to compromise.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier had been due in London for talks with his British counterpart David Frost this week.
Instead, they will peak by hone on Monday to discuss the structure of future talks, Barnier’s spokesman said.
Negotiations broke down on Thursday when the European Union said Britain needed to give ground.
Issues still to be resolved include fair competition rules, dispute resolution and fisheries.
Gove said on Sunday the bloc had squandered some of the progress made because it had not been willing to intensify talks or produce detailed legal texts.
“We hope the EU will change their position; we’re certainly not saying if they do change their position that we can’t talk to them,” he said.
Asked by Sky News if Barnier should come to London, Gove said the ball was “in his court”.
EU diplomats and officials cast Johnson’s move as little more than rhetoric, portraying it as a frantic bid to secure concessions before a last-minute deal was done, and European leaders have asked Barnier to continue talks.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said compromises on both sides would be needed.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Britain needed a Brexit deal more than the 27-nation EU, which remained united.
“We are ready for a deal but not at any price,” he said.
A “no deal” finale to the United Kingdom’s five-year Brexit crisis would disrupt the operations of manufacturers, retailers, farmers and nearly every other sector – just as the economic hit from COVID-19 worsens.
“It is not my preferred destination,” Gove said in an opinion piece in the Sunday Times.