EU's Barnier says bloc stepping up no-deal Brexit preparations

EU's Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier leaves the Europe House in London, Britain, September 10, 2020. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union is stepping up preparations for a no-deal Brexit at the end of this year, the bloc’s chief negotiator said on Thursday after the latest round of UK trade talks in which he said London disappointed on many fronts.

Speaking after an eighth full round of negotiations on a new partnership with the UK in London, Michel Barnier said the EU has shown flexibility on British demands on fisheries, the bloc’s top court and other areas.

“However, on its side, the UK has not engaged in a reciprocal way on fundamental EU principles and interests,” he said in a statement. “Significant differences remain in areas of essential interest for the EU.”

As Brexit talks descended into a new crisis over London’s plans to undermine parts of an earlier divorce deal with the EU, Barnier said Britain snubbed the bloc’s calls for level playing field guarantees of fair market competition, as well as on environmental and climate, social and labour standards.

He said the UK has equally not engaged enough on cross-cutting ways to solve any future disputes, judicial cooperation, transport or energy.

“Nobody should underestimate the practical, economic and social consequences of a ‘no deal’ scenario,” Barnier said.

He said he and his team would remain in touch with their UK counterparts led by David Frost in the coming days.

“At the same time, the EU is intensifying its preparedness work to be ready for all scenarios on 1 January 2021,” he said, referring to the date when Britain’s post-Brexit transition period ends.

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Andrew Heavens and David Evans