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The EU boss boasted the bloc is better prepared for a no deal situation than the UK as negotiators from both sides met in Brussels today with efforts to strike a trade agreement intensifying. Teams led by the Prime Minister’s Europe adviser David Frost and the EU’s Michel Barnier have met face-to-face for the first time since the coronavirus crisis forced talks to be held remotely.
If there is no agreement, we are prepared and we are better prepared
Ursula von der Leyen
But European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen insisted the EU negotiators will not budge on a wide range of issues including fishing rights, data protection and the European Court of Justice.
She told Deutschlandfunk radio: “Well, we want an agreement with our British friends, but we don’t want it at any costs.
“That means our principles will not be abandoned and indeed, one issue is fair competition, it has to be.
“The second is the fact that we want our citizens to have the European Court of Justice in the dispute settlement mechanism for the protection of fundamental rights and where European law is concerned, that is part of it.”
Ms Von der Leyen continued: “Fishing is a big issue and the issue of data protection if we also provide access to our data.
“So, these are basic principles in addition to the many, many, many other topics, which of course will continue to be negotiated with each other.
“And here we are very clear that we want to see them respected, just as Britain of course also has its points of view.
“We want an agreement. It is better for both parties. But we also say that if there is no agreement, we are prepared and we are better prepared.”
When asked if she agreed with the many observers, politicians and journalists who are convinced Mr Johnson did not really want an agreement Ms von der Leyen said: “Great Britain must make this decision itself.
“I can only say here that it is not good for both sides if we do not have an agreement but we as Europeans already have our advantages because we have a common market for 27.
“Britain has only its home market. And if you look at how we are networked in the world, I think there are more than 750 international agreements that are there, from air traffic to trade and Great Britain, because so far it has been part of these agreements, didn’t have a single one.
“We want an agreement, but I think it is important that Great Britain thinks very carefully about whether it wants to revert to the status of a third country and from there we start negotiating with the same effort as with all other third countries or third countries, or whether it does make sense now in the given time, we have also done a lot of preparatory work to find a good solution together for a common start into the new age.”
Mr Johnson hopes the newly-resumed in-person talks could result in a deal by the end of July although both sides have acknowledged the end of October is when an agreement needs to be concluded in order to ratify it this year.
The current transition period expires at the end of the year, meaning new arrangements will need to be in place or the UK will follow World Trade Organisation rules for its relationship with the EU.
European Commission spokesman Daniel Ferrie said: “Our overall message this week, but also for the coming weeks and coming months, is to intensify our negotiations in order to make progress in order to get a deal.”
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Mr Ferrie said he had “no particular comments to make” about Mr Frost being given a second job while the negotiations continued.
He said: “From our side at least we are fully concentrated on the negotiations.”
Ahead of the latest round of talks, Mr Frost said the EU’s “unrealistic positions” would need to change if there is to be any progress.
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