September 5, 2019 / 9:20 AM / 3 months ago

EU worried about Johnson stance on Irish border, competition after Brexit - sources

BRUSSELS, Sept 5 (Reuters) - European Union Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told the 27 member states staying in the bloc that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was reneging on London’s earlier commitments on the Irish border, officials and diplomats told Reuters.

Barnier also told a meeting of the 27 national envoys to Brussels that the EU must remain calm and vigilant and that London has still not presented any specific proposals on replacing the backstop, the sources added.

He did, however, say that London clearly stated it only wants a very limited free trade agreement with the EU in the future and does not want to legally commit to a level-playing field or convergent state aid rules to ensure fair competition.

The meeting of top EU officials and the 27 ambassadors on Wednesday also stressed that any UK assumption that the bloc would eventually give in under pressure and that a deal could be sealed at the Oct. 17-18 EU summit and then ratified in time before Brexit is due on Oct.31 was unrealistic.

Germany’s envoy said at the meeting that the latest round of EU-UK talks on Brexit would lead nowhere and was a waste of time, the sources said in what could come as an unpleasant surprise to London, which hopes Berlin would help it convince other EU capitals to give ground on the backstop impasse. (Additional reporting by Gabriela Baczynska and John Chamlers)

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