Brussels starts next round of Brexit talks with low expectations

On Tuesday, around 200 people will (virtually) take part in the third round of negotiations on a future trade deal between the EU and the U.K. But expectations for the talks are very, very low.

“We’re sticking to our guns and I don’t see the Brits moving their position at this point either,” an EU official said ahead of the talks. “There won’t be any movement during this round.”

A deal has to be agreed by December 31, when the Brexit transition period ends. Despite this, both sides acknowledged there was barely any progress made after the last round in April. To make matters worse, time was lost as talks were delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The two sides are at an impasse on various issues, the thorniest being level playing field rules. Brussels wants London to follow EU regulations on state aid and environmental standards, among other things, to avoid the U.K. becoming a race-to-the-bottom competitor on the bloc’s doorstep. London insists on having the freedom to set its own rules.

Since the last round, U.K. officials have suggested that EU capitals should get involved in the talks to broker a compromise. “Clearly there will need to be some political movement on the EU side,” a Downing Street official said at the end of April, suggesting that heads of government would have to intervene to revise the EU’s negotiating position.

The EU will prepare its contingency plans, as it did during the negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement.

It’s a suggestion they’ve made before — during negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement.

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