Brexit Negotiations ‘Held Hostage’ by No.10 Infighting and Dominic Cummings, EU Officials

The leader of the largest party in the European parliament has blamed internal conflict within the British government for stalled Brexit negotiations on Friday, following confirmation that Downing Street advisor Dominic Cummings would be departing his role by Christmas.

On Radio 4’s Today programme, German politician Manfred Weber, who heads the People’s Party and an ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, cited the “chaotic situation” within the highest echelons of the British government as the cause of the Brexit deadlock.

Weber, who serves as an MEP for the German Christian Social Union, which is linked to Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), claimed that the infighting is causing the UK’s position to become unclear.

While speaking to the BBC, Weber outlined that Brexit talks have stalled due for two primary reasons: access to UK fishing waters and the “level playing field” rules which prevent state aid favouring British companies.

“There are fair questions we are asking … If you want to change in the future, with your background of sovereignty, your subsidies, regulations, then we must have an option an opportunity to react to stop to limit your access to our market”, he said. “I see what is happening now in Downing Street. We can also see this as a quite chaotic situation where we don’t have an idea what is really the line in Great Britain. So don’t tell us we should be ready for compromise”.

He said the EU requires a “clear idea from Boris Johnson” and urged the Prime Minister to show “leadership”, pointing to “recent developments in America” where “it will be not so easy with Joe Biden [as US president-elect] to achieve an easy trade deal now”.

“It’s time to take over responsibility and come to a common understanding. Britain has red lines, we have red lines, let’s now come to a compromise”, he added.

The German lawmaker’s comments were rejected by UK government sources. The unnamed official told The Guardian that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has “been clear that he wants a deal if there is a deal to be done. We’ve been negotiating constructively and with creativity”.

“I guess the reason the EU feel the need to say these sorts of things is that they are starting to realise that we meant it when we said there were fundamental principles from which we couldn’t move. We need to see some realism and creativity from their side if we are to bridge the significant gaps that remain”, he added.

Dominic Cummings, special advisor for Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, arrives at Downing Street, in London, Britain, November 12, 2020

This follows confirmation that Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s top aide and former director of the Vote Leave campaign that spearheaded the UKs movement to leave the EU in 2016, would leave Downing Street by 25 December 2020.

However, this contradicted a previous comment by Cummings, who told the BBC on Thursday that the “rumours of me threatening to resign are invented”. He later clarified that his position remained unchanged from a blog post in January, where wrote that would make himself “largely redundant” by the end of the year.

An unnamed EU source told the Guardian that Cummings’ had been holding the negotiation process “hostage” and his departure could lead to an easing of resistance to compromise.

“His flawed concept of state aid has held the negotiation hostage,” the diplomat said.

Cummings has long advocated for Brexit as an opportunity for the UK’s to subsidise the tech industry beyond the common competition restrictions of the European Union.

Despite the logjam, a deal must be agreed to this month in order to provide sufficient time for parliamentary ratification. If a compromise is not reached, then the UK will leave the bloc without a deal and trade on World Trade Organisation rules.

The EU’s negotiators, heading by Michel Barnier, have been in London this week for discussion over the future relationship. The team will leave on Friday before meeting with their UK counterparts next Monday in Brussels.

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