EU accuses member states of "parallel negotiations" with London as trade talks open in Brussels.

The EU claims that Britain is trying to weaken the bloc’s position at trade talks by talking to individual member states, and has urged governments not to hold “parallel negotiations” with London, Reuters reports, referring to an EU document it claims to have seen.

Formal negotiations finally began in Brussels this week, just over a month after Britain left the EU. The aim is to reach agreement on a new trade relationship by the end of this year.

“We have information that the UK colleagues are approaching us at different levels and trying to engage in issues that are linked to our negotiations,” a senior diplomat from Croatia, which currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, reportedly told a meeting of Brussels envoys from member states.

“We would like to ask member states to restrain from engaging in contacts of a nature that may be perceived as a parallel negotiation, in substance, and perhaps undermine the position of the EU and negotiator.”

In fact, member states are strictly forbidden from engaging in such bi-lateral talks, although this is not unknown to happen surreptitiously, particularly in the energy sector.

The European Commission is in charge of the talks on behalf of the remaining 27 member states, with Michel Barnier in role of chief negotiator.

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