The UK has accused the EU of making post-Brexit negotiations “unnecessarily difficult” and warned “time is short for both sides”, as talks threatened to stall.
David Frost, Boris Johnson’s chief negotiator, said he believes a trade deal is still possible but warned “there has been little progress” after seven rounds of talks.
His EU counterpart Michel Barnier also lamented the failure to make a breakthrough, and said it too often feels like talks are “going backwards more than forwards”.
The latest round of talks took place in Brussels, with officials trying to agree a deal before the transition period ends on December 31.
After a breakfast meeting between the top negotiators on Friday, Mr Frost said: “We have had useful discussions this week but there has been little progress.”
Mr Frost blamed the EU position on state aid and fishing policy as being a key stumbling block.
“The EU is still insisting not only that we must accept continuity with EU state aid and fisheries policy, but also that this must be agreed before any further substantive work can be done in any other area of the negotiation, including on legal texts,” he said in a statement.
“This makes it unnecessarily difficult to make progress. There are other significant areas which remain to be resolved and, even where there is a broad understanding between negotiators, there is a lot of detail to work through.
“Time is short for both sides.”
Mr Barnier was equally as pessimistic about progress, saying: “I simply do not understand why we are wasting valuable time.
“Too often this week it felt as if we were going backwards more than forwards.”
He said “we have made no progress whatsoever” on the key issues of fishing policy and said they “still struggle to agree on the necessary guarantees to protect citizens’ fundamental rights” in law enforcement.
He also reiterated the EU’s committance to the level playing field to prevent businesses on one side undercutting their rivals in the other with lower workers’ rights or environmental protections.
Mr Frost said they will “continue to work hard to reach an agreement”, with the next round of talks starting in London in the week of September 7.
The two sides are currently in a transition period where the UK follows the EU’s rules and has access to the single market, but this will lapse at the end of the year.
Both parties have said any deal needs to be concluded by October in order to be ratified.