LONDON (Reuters) – The United Kingdom told the European Union on Tuesday to speed up negotiations on a Brexit free trade deal, cautioning that there was no point in having an 11th-hour agreement that would cause havoc for businesses and citizens.
Britain left the EU on Jan. 31 but the main terms of its membership remain in place during a transition period until the end of this year, in which time both sides hope to negotiate a new free trade deal.
“There is no point in us arriving at an agreement at the 11th hour: we have to arrive at agreement to enable it to be implemented, ratified but also for our citizens and businesses to prepare,” Paymaster General Penny Mordaunt told parliament.
“That is what is dictating the timetable here and that is why we must have renewed focus. We’re talking to the EU about having a change of format, about how we can increase the pace of negotiations, get the focus where we need it to be, and get a deal done for both of our sakes.”
Mordaunt, a deputy to Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, said there had been no movement on key sticking points in recent rounds and so talks would have to accelerate.
“There was however no movement on the most difficult areas where differences of principle are most acute, notably fisheries, governance arrangements and the so called level playing field,” she added.
“To make progress, we need to accelerate and intensify our work,” she said, adding under questioning that there were differences over the 2019 Political Declaration, which sets out the direction of future negotiations.
“The political declaration is not a treaty, there will be differences on both sides to interpretation and the point that we have emphasised in the last few days is that the EU cannot be the referee in that,” Mordaunt said.
(Editing by Stephen Addison)