Britain urged to be ‘more realistic’ in Brexit talks

Britain must be “more realistic” in post-Brexit trade deal talks, a French former Europe minister has said.

Nathalie Loiseau (C) waves a European flag during a public meeting ahead of the European elections. Picture: Getty

MEP Nathalie Loiseau said it was “possible” that the UK and EU would reach a deal but “much progress has to be made in the negotiation”.

The latest round of negotiations, which ended on Friday, failed to break the deadlock but talks are set to continue.

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The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said there had been “no significant areas of progress” while his UK counterpart, David Frost, said they would have to “intensify and accelerate” the process if there was to be any chance of an agreement.

As it stands, Britain will leave the EU single market when the Brexit transition period comes to an end at the end of the year with nothing to replace it unless a deal is agreed.

Ms Loiseau told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “For the time being, the UK negotiator is asking, for instance, for freedom of movement for service providers coming from the UK – we have never provided it to any of our trade partners.

“He is asking for reciprocity in terms of professional qualifications. This is something that we provide only to member states. So the UK side has to become more realistic.”

A big sticking point remains the so-called level playing field, which is aimed at preventing the UK from undercutting EU standards on issues including workers’ rights, environmental protection and state subsidies.

Ms Loiseau said: “We believe on both sides of the Channel in high standards, so why don’t we keep them?

“Why don’t we commit ourselves legally as we have already done politically to keep these standards high, now and in the future?

“To have high standards, converging standards, equivalent standards, for the benefit of our peoples.”

It came as Northern Ireland’s First Minister voiced concern that the Brexit negotiations “don’t appear to be going particularly well”. Arlene Foster said she wants to see a trade deal agreed.

“We need to make sure that both sides understand that it’s to both sides benefit, and that’s something I think the European Union often didn’t get in the negotiations from 2016 onwards,” the DUP leader said.

“And for both our sakes I hope that we do get to a situation where we get a deal because that’s what we need in Northern Ireland.”

Mrs Foster pledged to work to keep post-Brexit checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea minimal.

“In terms of Northern Ireland to Great Britain, unfettered access has very much been stated again in the command paper.

“I suppose the concern we are focused on is the transport of goods from Great Britain 
to Northern Ireland because the whole issue is about the risk of those goods going into the Republic of Ireland and into the single market,” she said.

“We would say that is a very minimal risk when you look at the size of the single market of the European Union, so it’s very important that we continue to work with the UK government in making sure those are minimal checks.

“Of course, we have had checks for many years in terms of live animals, to make sure there is no disease coming into the island of Ireland, but we need to make sure the rest of the administrative checks are kept to a minimal.”