EU President: UK doesn't want to cooperate. And we want their fish
"Two days ago, President Sassoli, President Michel and I discussed the way forward with Prime Minister Johnson.
"The Prime Minister confirmed that he does not want to extend the transition period beyond the end of this year.
"We, on our side, have always been ready to grant an extension.
"But it takes two to tango.
"This means that we are now half-way through these negotiations – with five months left to go.
"But we are definitely not half-way through the work to reach an agreement.
"With little time ahead of us, we will do all in our power to reach an agreement.
"We will be constructive, as we have always been.
"And we are ready to be creative, to find common ground where there seems to be none.
"What we are not ready to do, is to put into question our principles and the integrity of our Union.
"Because it is our duty to protect the interests of European citizens.
"Michel Barnier has explained many times why these four outstanding issues are so crucial.
"First of all, on the level playing field.
"The fundamental issue at stake here is fair competition.
"We are ready and willing to compete with British firms.
"But it cannot be a downward competition.
"Just think of labour standards, or environmental protection.
"It should be a shared interest for the EU and the UK:
"- to never slide backwards,
"- and always advance together towards higher standards.
"Second, on fisheries.
"No one questions the UK's sovereignty on its own waters.
"But we ask for predictability and guarantees for our fishermen and women, who have been sailing in those waters for decades.
"It is very clear that there cannot be a ‘comprehensive' trade agreement without fisheries, a level playing field, and strong governance mechanisms." ■