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Brexit

Spanish foreign minister calls for end to ‘posturing’ in UK-EU talks

By David Hughes, PA Political Editor

The UK and the European Union need to show flexibility in post-Brexit trade talks, Spain’s foreign minister said as she called for an end to “posturing” and a return to serious negotiations.

Arancha Gonzalez Laya’s comments came after Boris Johnson’s lead negotiator David Frost launched an attack on the EU’s “perplexing” position, claiming it would seek to impose “novel and unbalanced” conditions on the UK.

The Spanish minister said the UK had to realise it would have to pay a price if it wanted to continue enjoying the benefits of access to the internal market.

Mr Frost’s comments, in a letter to the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier, came after the UK published its draft text of a free trade agreement and followed the latest round of negotiations which made little progress and were described as “tetchy” by British insiders.

Ms Laya said it was time to “stop posturing, stop sending letters” and begin a “real negotiation”.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think both sides have to show flexibility, it’s not as if this was a one-way street.

“There is clearly a desire on the British side to continue to enjoy the benefits of belonging to the European internal market, very certainly, and that has to come with a price because Britain will no longer be a member of the European Union.

“You can’t be out and still enjoy the benefits as if you were in. On the European Union side, there are a number of things that are important to the European Union – fishing is one of them.

“What we need to see happening now is a real negotiation and no posturing, it’s too late for this.

“What we need to see now is a mutually beneficial negotiation with a good win-win outcome that takes care of the interests of Britain, but also takes care of the European interests.”

Sticking points in the talks include the EU’s call for access to British fishing waters and “level playing field” conditions on areas such as state subsidies, workers’ rights and environmental protections.

In his letter on Tuesday Mr Frost said Brussels’ proposed deal “contains novel and unbalanced proposals which would bind this country to EU law or standards”.

“What is on offer is not a fair free trade relationship between close economic partners, but a relatively low-quality trade agreement coming with unprecedented EU oversight of our laws and institutions,” he said.

But Ms Laya said: “The most important thing now is to stop posturing, stop sending letters, to stop sending emails, sit down and negotiate – that’s what we need to see now.

“And again it has to be clear that when you’re not a member of the European Union, you can’t enjoy the same benefits as if you were a member of the European Union.”