Michel Barnier, top negotiator on behalf of the European Union in the Brexit negotiations with the United Kingdom, lashed out at a press conference on Friday the position of the British in the negotiations. Talks started again this week after a break of several weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Barnier also accuses the British of not taking the negotiations seriously. "The United Kingdom cannot refuse to extend the transition phase while delaying discussions on key issues," the top negotiator said at a press conference after the negotiation round.
Among other things, the EU chief negotiator identified fishing as a key issue in the negotiations that have not yet made any progress. "The British have not yet produced any legal text on this crucial issue," said Barnier.
And that while the clock is ticking. The two sides officially have until the end of this year to reach a good trade deal - a timeline that is already very tight compared to other major trade treaties. The deadline of late December can still be extended, but the government led by Boris Johnson has said several times that it does not want to do so.
The question is whether the negotiations will continue until December: the Johnson administration said it wanted to see progress earlier this year in June. If not, the British can walk away from the negotiating table and take the rest of the year to prepare for a no-deal Brexit. Until that deadline, only two rounds of negotiations are planned, making significant progress seem impossible.
See also: How the coronavirus can still lead to a hard Brexit