EU to UK: stop playing 'games' with Brexit trade talks

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Minister of State for Europe at the German Federal Foreign Office Michael Roth, left, speaks with Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok, center, and Italian Minister of European Affairs Vicenzo Amendola, right, during a meeting of the General Affairs Council at the European Council building in Brussels, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020. European Union ministers meet Tuesday to discuss the stalemate in the Brexit negotiations and prospects to avoid a no-deal cliff-edge transition at the end of the year. (Aris Oikonomou, Pool via AP)

BRUSSELS – The European Union is pleading with Britain to stop playing “games" as time is running out to clinch a free trade deal over the next month.

The sides committed to a new meeting to discuss Britain's plans to disregard part of the withdrawal agreement it had signed with the 27-nation EU amid acrimony that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson would even contemplate to break an agreement he himself signed.

EU countries' ministers for European affairs met in Brussels on Tuesday and German chairman Michael Roth said the British plan was “extremely" worrisome since it “violates the guiding principle of the withdrawal agreement," which officially allowed the United Kingdom to leave the bloc last Jan. 31.

A transition period now runs until Dec 31, during which time both sides are negotiating a trade agreement to replace the open and unfettered economic relations that are currently in place. The EU has repeatedly expressed its exasperation at what it sees as British stubbornness and refusal to compromise on some key points.

Without a deal on future trade relations, chaos is expected at the borders on Jan. 1. Companies on both sides are set to lose massive amounts of money as new red tape and tariffs will fundamentally change business practices.

Johnson's proposed a bill earlier this month that would disregard part of the withdrawal treaty dealing with trade between Ireland and the United Kingdom only added to the frustration.

“Dear friends in London: Stop the games. Time is running out," said Roth ahead of the meeting. “What we really need is a fair basis for negotiations."

Johnson is pushing ahead with plans to pass the bill into law in the coming weeks, though it has met with opposition from some lawmakers in his Conservative Party.