A senior German diplomat accused the U.K. of failing to live up to commitments it made in last year’s deal to exit the European Union and said all sides will have to prepare for the talks on their post-Brexit relationship to fail.
The two sides were “far away from a reasonable solution” because British negotiators had called into question common underpinnings of the discussions, Michael Roth, a deputy foreign minister in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government, said in an interview.
“I’m a bit surprised by the expectations in London, because our negotiations are based on the jointly agreed political declaration,” Roth, a German Social Democrat, told Bloomberg Television in Berlin on Friday.
The comments will carry weight coming from the EU’s biggest member state, which has repeatedly said it wants to maintain strong ties with the U.K. They will also damp any British hopes that Germany could step into broker a compromise if the negotiations break down.
The British government said “significant differences still remain” after the latest round of discussions between EU negotiator Michel Barnier and Britain’s David Frost.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a brief appearance before an informal dinner between Barnier and Frost on Tuesday to stress his desire to reach an outline agreement in the coming weeks. Talks have stalled over a series of contentious issues including access to British fishing waters and the influence of EU courts.
Roth said both sides need to consider “all options,” including no agreement. Without a deal, Britain and the EU will trade on World Trade Organization terms from Jan. 1, meaning tariffs and quotas will be reimposed, threatening an economic shock.
“That would be the worst case, but politicians need to consider all options,” Roth said.
— With assistance by Aggi Cantrill
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