Nicola Bee, vice president of the European Parliament, has ordered Britain to make quick progress in Brexit discussions or agree to an extension to the transition period. Britain and the EU are currently in deadlock over the future trading relationship and both sides have until June to decide whether negotiations should be prolonged beyond the December 31 deadline.
This week Boris Johnson’s Brexit negotiator David Frost is holding a third round of discussions with the European Commission’s Head of Task Force Michel Barnier, but an agreement is still yet to be reached on core topics such as regulations, justice and fishing.
Ms Bee, German MEP for the Free Democratic Party (FDP) has called on both sides to negotiate a “close as possible” relationship but insisted the onus is on the UK to make a breakthrough.
In an interview with German broadcaster SWR, she said: “We have to focus all our energy to reach an agreement with the UK that is as close as possible.
“It doesn’t just affect the economy, science, internal security, national security, they are also a NATO partner and I think the UK will remain in Europe, even if they leave the EU.
“But the ball is really now in the court of the British.
“I don’t really have any hope anymore that this can still be done in this very short time until the end of the year.
“So the British really have to speed up now, or request an extension.”
Over the weekend German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also raised concerns of the impact Brexit would have on the nation on top of the coronavirus pandemic.
He told German newspaper Augsburger Allgemeine: “The British government is still refusing to extend the deadline.
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“The UK, therefore, cannot impose this short, brief timeline and at the same time not budge, make progress, on some topics that are of importance to the EU.”
Boris Johnson has always insisted the UK would not extend the transition period despite the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.
A Downing Street spokeswoman hit back at Mr Barnier’s comments and confirmed there had been “limited progress” between the two sides and highlighted the EU’s offer on a Free Trade Agreement “falls well short”.
(Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg)