Brexit: UK warned not to ‘play games’ in EU trade talks
By Sam Blewett, PA Political Correspondent
Boris Johnson cast a “dark shadow” over EU trade deal negotiations with his threat to break international law over Brexit, a German minister has warned as talks resumed in Brussels.
Michael Roth warned the UK not to “play games” as he said the Prime Minister’s legislation that could override his own Withdrawal Agreement had jeopardised trust.
Both sides have continued to clash over the Government’s controversial UK Internal Market Bill, which prompted Brussels to threaten legal action if it was not changed by the end of the month.
The ninth round of formal negotiations resumed on Tuesday, with fisheries and the level playing field among the items on the agenda as time runs out on the transition period.
Europe minister Mr Roth said both sides now must “work with urgency to find a sensible solution” and warned “trust has suffered a lot recently” because of the controversial Bill being debated by MPs.
“The EU cannot and will not accept this approach. It is casting a dark shadow over the ongoing negotiations,” he wrote in Der Spiegel magazine.
He accused the UK of having acted to “recklessly jeopardise” border arrangements on the island of Ireland to preserve the hard-won peace process.
“With readiness to compromise from both sides, with mutual trust and good will, a fair deal is still possible. But it is not helpful to play games,” he said.
“We have made progress towards consensus on many points. On others, however, we still have some way to go. It is really high time we reached agreement.”
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove and European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic met on Monday after their last acrimonious meeting resulted in a legal threat.
Mr Sefcovic said Brussels “will not be shy” in taking the action after their latest discussions.
But Mr Gove, his counterpart on the EU-UK joint committee, said the Government would not back down on the controversial legislation.
He argued the provisions on the Northern Ireland protocol, which the UK agreed to under the Withdrawal Agreement in October, was needed as a “safety net” for peace if trade talks fail.
But talks have so far threatened to reach deadlock and Mr Johnson has indicated he would walk away from negotiations by the time of the next EU summit on October 15.
The transition period in which the UK continues to be in the single market and follow EU law ends on December 31.
Without a deal, the UK will face high trade tariffs.