Brexit: Germany’s foreign minister says Boris Johnson must be more ‘realistic and pragmatic’ if he wants a trade deal

Flagging trade talks have seen little progress

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Thursday 06 August 2020 15:12 BST
Michael Roth says he was ‘disappointed London is shifting further and further away from the political declaration’
Michael Roth says he was ‘disappointed London is shifting further and further away from the political declaration’ (PA)

Boris Johnson needs to be more “realistic and pragmatic” if he wants a Brexit trade deal with the EU, Germany’s foreign minister has said.

Michael Roth said he was “disappointed” with the UK’s lack of flexibility in negotiations so far, with just five months left to sign a deal and EU officials warning an agreement looks “unlikely”.

Both sides are still at loggerheads over fisheries, regulatory alignment, the role of the European Court of Justice, police and judicial cooperation, and the overall shape of any deal.

Mr Roth told the AFP news agency he was “disappointed that London is shifting further and further away from the political declaration agreed between us as a reliable basis for negotiations” – previous commitments made the prime minister during the first stage of talks.

“I would like those responsible in London to be more realistic and pragmatic. The Brits are known for the latter,” he added.

The prime minister refused to extend the transition period for negotiations despite the coronavirus pandemic and has shown little sign of varying the UK’s red lines, which appear incompatible with Brussels.

There has been little progress to report since trade negotiations kicked off at the start of the year despite a resumption in face-to-face meetings after the Covid-related interruption.

Brussels has previously accused the UK of backsliding on its commitments, not only on principles around what a trade deal should look like, but on implementing already-agreed legal provisions for Northern Ireland.

The UK wants to water down border controls between Northern Ireland and Great Britain included in the EU customs code signed up to by Mr Johnson, but the EU says this is not acceptable and that the PM has already legally committed to them.

There was further pressure from senior Tories on the prime minister to drive a hard bargain this week after Brexiteer and former party leader Iain Duncan Smith called for a cut in the financial liabilities Britain has with the EU under the agreement struck before the 2019 election.

The next official round is due to take place in Brussels on 17 August, with meetings already expected well into October – leaving little time for ratification by the end of the year. Mr Johnson previously said he wanted an agreement to be done in July.

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