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LONDON — Britain and the EU will carry on talking Brexit despite the shade-throwing.
Brussels issued an olive branch to London on Monday in the form of an offer to intensify talks in London this week, on all subjects and based on legal texts. The offer was made during a call between chief negotiators Michel Barnier and David Frost and appeared to meet one of the U.K.’s key demands for talks to continue.
The lack of engagement by the EU had been one of the U.K.’s main complaints leading to last week’s European Council, along with a perception in Downing Street that Brussels was expecting the U.K. to be the only one giving ground.
The British government, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove told MPs Monday, had made itself available to discuss the future relationship “every day” during those weeks ahead of the summit but the EU was only willing to talk on “fewer than half of the days available.” London had also accused Brussels of not engaging on all of the issues still to be resolved, and refusing to negotiate using legal texts, slowing down progress.
These frustrations prompted a statement from the U.K. last Friday declaring trade talks were “over” unless the EU “fundamentally changed its position.”
Nevertheless, Gove told the BBC’s Andrew Marr on Sunday the door was “ajar” for more talks and chief U.K. negotiator David Frost spoke to Barnier by phone Monday about what ongoing talks might look like.
The U.K. government remains under pressure to deliver a deal, amid increasingly vocal calls from businesses worried by the economic risks of Britain leaving the EU without a trade deal and concern among many in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Tory party about the pressure such a scenario could put on the unity of the United Kingdom,