Brexit talks hit a snag, as Barnier declares UK trade deal 'unlikely'

The UK and EU have said they still remain some way off reaching a post-Brexit trade agreement, following the latest negotiations in London.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator has said a trade deal with the UK by the end of the year is “unlikely"

The fifth round of “intensified” post-Brexit trade talks between the UK and EU ended on Thursday, with both sides saying little progress was made and a deal looked far off.

David Frost, the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator said "considerable gaps" remained in these areas, but a deal was still possible.

“My assessment is that agreement can still be reached in September, and that we should continue to negotiate with this aim in mind.”

This was the second official negotiation round to be held in person since the coronavirus crisis, after both sides agreed to "intensify" talks in June.

The two sides' chief negotiators are due to meet informally in London next week, with another round of official talks scheduled for mid-August in Brussels.

Barnier said the UK’s demands of “near-total exclusion of fishing vessels from the UK’s water” was “simply unacceptable.”

“On the level-playing field, the UK still refuses to commit to maintaining high standards in a meaningful way," said Barnier.

Frost said: “We have always been clear that our principles in these areas are not simple negotiating positions but expressions of the reality that we will be a fully independent country at the end of the transition period.”

He said the UK, which has so far insisted on a series of separate deals in different areas, was also willing to consider a "simpler" structure for an agreement.

However he conceded previous UK demands for an "early understanding" on the principles of a deal by this month would not be reached.

He said EU offers to break the deadlock had so far failed to honour the "fundamental principles which we have repeatedly made clear".

If a deal cannot be reached, the UK risks a disruptive end to current trading terms with the EU in January.

The lack of progress will come as a blow to both EU head Ursula von de Leyen and UK prime minister Boris Johnson. The pair held a high-level meeting in June and seemed to make progress, authorising “intensified” negotiations.

The UK is due to stop following EU "state aid" rules at the end of the transition period, and has not unveiled details of its subsequent regime.