EU BLINKS FIRST: Brussels set to cave on major Brexit trade talks issue – Boris boost

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However, the EU’s chief negotiator has insisted neither he nor his team would agree to anything which compromises the integrity of the bloc’s single market. Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke to senior cabinet ministers yesterday to discuss the Government’s strategy in advance of the start of “intensified” talks which are due to start on Monday.

We are ready to work on operational and clever compromise

Michel Barnier

Mr Barnier said he was ready to work with the UK on what he called a “credible and operational” framework in respect of level playing field rules aimed to ensure Britain is closely aligned with EU rules in terms of state-aid, environmental and employment regulations.

During a webcast organised by the European Policy Centre think-tank, he said: “We are ready on this point, as well as on the fishing issue, governance, and some other issues where we are divergent, we are ready to work on landing zones respecting the mandate of the EU.

“We are ready to work on operational and clever compromise but not at the price, never at the price, of any unravelling of the single market. Never.

“The level playing field is not for sale. It is a core part of the our trade model and we refuse to compromise to benefit the British economy.”

UK Government officials have said for his part, Mr Johnson was determined to assert the UK’s right to deviate from common standards when it came to state aid, while accepting Brussels’ right to impose retaliatory tariffs.

The end of June marks a significant deadline for both sides in the sense that the Withdrawal Agreement rules out any extension after this date, meaning there will be six months left to thrash out a wide-ranging trade deal.

Mr Johnson believes a deal can be struck by the end of next month, although Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, has identified October as a more realistic deadline.

Brussels is also working towards October, believing it necessary in order for it to be ratified by December 31.

Mr Barnier has described October as the “real moment of truth” but said he was looking signs of real movement from next week.

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He added: “If we get this signal next week and make concrete progress in July all the better.

“Our problem is not related to timing, but to substance, in particular that the UK keeps backtracking on its commitments in the political declaration.

Stressing his determination to achieve a breakthrough, he added: “The ball is in the UK’s court.

“I believe that the deal is still possible.

He also claimed failure to agree one would cause huge damage to the UK’s economy.

He said: “It’s in the UK’s particular interest to avoid a no-deal.”

Both sides needed to be willing to make concessions, including in the terms of level playing field commitments, he stressed, while emphasising the need for a “robust mechanism” to prevent distortions of trade.

Mr Barnier also voiced his surprised at what he identified as UK’s willingness to work up level playing field frameworks with other trading partners including the US and New Zealand but not with the EU.

He said Brussels was prepared to consider discuss mechanisms to protect the single market involving “a level of regulatory coherence in certain fields and certain issues” – while at the same time respecting the sovereignty of both sides.

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