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The bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator has been called in to make a state of play presentation on the wrangling over a free-trade agreement. The Frenchman was added to the agenda at next week’s European Council summit after a meeting with its president Charles Michel. Brexit will be an “information point” at the gathering so leaders can “analyse the situation”, according to an EU official.
Mr Barnier will inform the EU27 that “substantial progress” needs to be made before a deal is concluded.
The bloc will call for Britain to scrap legislation that allows ministers to ignore EU rules in Northern Ireland as signed up to as part of last year’s Withdrawal Agreement.
“The EU is neither intimidated nor impressed but breaking an international agreement is extremely worrying,” the official added.
“The EU is looking for an agreement on our future relation, but that requires substantial progress on key issues – level playing field and fisheries.
“The time available to get there is short.”
Brussels has hardened its position against Boris Johnson after the publication of his Internal Market Bill.
European sources indicated Mr Barnier now wants extra guarantees that Britain cannot break any trade deal agreed in the future.
EU chiefs refused to drop their opposition to the measure yesterday, despite mr Johnson caving in to Tory rebels by giving Parliament a say over any changes to Northern Ireland customs rules.
A diplomatic source said: “if we want to make progress we might need less content on a level playing field, but then you absolutely need a rock-solid governance system.
“I think developments of the last week have shown its importance and there is a feeling among member states it is even more important.”
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Senior MEP Guy Verhofstadt said the European Parliament could veto a trade deal if mr Johnson refused to drop the Bill.
He said: “The climbdown on the internal market Bill might be ending the Tory rebellion but it’s still a clear breach of international law.”
And the European Commission’s chief spokesman insisted the bloc still wanted the Prime Minister to scrap the legislation by the end of the month.
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The spokesman added: “I think Michel Barnier showed in the context of the negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement that even on politically sensitive issues the Commission, and indeed the EU, negotiate in perfectly good faith.”
Lord Frost, Mr Johnson’s Brexit envoy, held talks with Mr Barnier in Brussels last night.
A Government spokesman said: “The negotiating team had useful informal discussions with the eu this week and some limited progress was made. But significant gaps remain in key areas, including fisheries and subsidies.”
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