EU attacked for ‘completely unreasonable demands’ in Brexit talks by former ambassador

Brexit: Michael Gove insists UK will be 'in control' of waters

Mark Higgie, a former Australian ambassador to the EU, has lashed out at Brussels for failing to understand the UK’s right to sovereignty and accused the bloc of making “completely unreasonable demands of Britain”. Post-Brexit trade talks remain on the brink with the EU failing to recognise the UK will become an independent fishing state and refusing to let the UK free from the shackles of EU competition rules via the so-called level playing field.

Mr Higgie, who served as a political adviser to former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott, accused the EU of trying to maintain the status-quo by turning a blind eye to what Brexit really means.

On the negotiating position of the EU, he said: “Basically, remain in its orbit and, by the way, give us 80 percent of your fish.

“This saga has gone on for so many year and you’d think that the Brussels establishment would understand Britain’s desire to re-establish sovereignty, but they just don’t get it.

“They really are obtuse.”

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Britain voted to leave the bloc in 2016 and the 63-year-old described the outcome for the EU as the “biggest setback in its 62-year history”.

The roadblocks for the modern day EU27 were set in 1957 when the European Economic Community (EEC) was signed in order to pave the way for the common market.

Speaking on the Daily Telegraph’s Plant Normal podcast, Mr Higgie added: “Fairly inevitably there’s a lot of anger around.

“And I think that element of punishing Britain both for what it has done and also as an example to other countries is a real factor in the background.”

The UK will officially leave the EU with or without a formal trade deal in just 14 days’ time and Mr Higgie has no doubt the UK will prosper outside the bloc.

He said: “Britain is going to be absolutely fine. These things take time, you know.”

Brexit talks between UK’s chief negotiator Lord Frost and his EU counterpart Michel Barnier continued this afternoon.

Mr Barnier told a briefing of European Parliament leaders that the negotiations were in the “final stretch”.

Meanwhile, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove downplayed the chances of a deal and insisted they were less than 50 percent.

Speaking at a Commons Brexit Committee, Mr Gove said while progress had been made there remained “significant” differences.

He said: “The process of negotiation has managed to narrow down areas of difference.

“It is certainly the case that there are fewer areas of difference now than there were in October or indeed July.

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“The areas of difference are still significant and they do go to the very heart of the mandate which the country gave the Government in 2016.”

The House of Commons rises for Christmas at the close of business today but MPs have been put on standby to be recalled if a trade deal is secured.

Meanwhile, leaders of the European Parliament have set a deadline of Sunday in order to receive copies of the legal text of any forthcoming agreement.

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