The Brexit talks on Monday and Tuesday between the European Union’s (EU) chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, and his UK counterpart, David Frost, have failed to get the negotiations going again. However, this Wednesday, a conversation that lasted almost an hour broke the impasse.
It was Barnier who offered the key to unlock the talks. In the morning, he told MEPs that “an agreement was within reach if both parties were willing to work constructively”.
Talks stopped last week, when the United Kingdom suspended formal negotiations following the European Council summit. EU leaders suggested that it was up to the UK alone to make compromises.
UK ministers and officials, including Frost, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Government Cabinet Minister Michael Gove, said that without a signal from the EU that it was also willing to make concessions, formal talks could not be resumed.
The two subsequent calls between Frost and Barnier raised hopes, but failed to make a substantial advance. Barnier insisted that the EU was ready to move towards negotiations on a legal text on all thematic areas – another UK requirement – but it was not enough.
Several European leaders complained that “London was wasting valuable negotiating time” due to Boris Johnson’s ‘habit’ of setting deadlines and then abandoning them.
However, London’s ‘tactics’ ended up paying off in a call. “We will look for the necessary commitments from both parties to reach an agreement and we will do it until the last possible day,” Barnier told MEPs this Wednesday. “Our doors will remain open until the end”, he stressed.
The Wednesday afternoon call was not a negotiation, but a conversation about the process, next steps and preparations, according to the Politico, which quotes a UK official.
Following the appeal, a Downing Street spokesman said Barnier had given in to British demands. “Based on that conversation, we are ready to receive the EU team in London to resume negotiations later this week. We agreed on a set of principles to deal with this phase of the talks ”, he added.
“Intensive conversations will take place every day and start tomorrow afternoon, October 22, in London,” wrote Frost on Twitter. The Government and the EU have published the new set of principles for the next round of talks.
Brexit: Talks expected to resume in November