britain referendum united kingdom london.jpg
Photograph: EPA/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA

Britain's planned departure from the European Union will affect the balance of a mammoth free trade agreement the bloc is negotiating with the United States, Washington's chief negotiator said Friday, as both sides wrapped up their 14th round of talks.

Once finalized, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) would create the world's largest free trade area, with around 800 million people.

But the deal, which has been plagued by criticism on both sides of the Atlantic, has been brought into question by Britain's referendum decision last month to leave the 28-member EU. The country is among the bloc's three largest economies and one of the top six globally.

"A withdrawal of the UK ... would affect the value of the EU market," chief US negotiator Dan Mullaney said in Brussels, noting that the country accounts for a quarter of US exports to Europe and is its largest market for services globally.

"In a negotiation such as this, clearly these type of numbers affects the balance of a potential deal and we are continuing to analyze the overall impact," Mullaney added, comparing it, by way of example, to excluding California from the trade agreement.

At the same time, he stressed that "the economic rationale for TTIP remains strong," noting that US President Barack Obama had reaffirmed his commitment to the deal last week, well after the British referendum.

TTIP will bring together the world's two largest economies, noted chief EU negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero, adding that the reasons for it are "as strong today as ever."

Negotiations on the trade deal have been ongoing for three years, with both sides aiming to reach the outlines of an agreement by the end of the year, before Obama leaves office and both France and Germany gear up for elections in 2017.

"After this year, with one political transition after another over the next few years, it could be quite a while before you picked up the negotiations again," Mullaney warned.

The outlines of the agreement are beginning to take shape, Garcia Bercero said, noting that proposals are now on the table for almost all of the 30-odd chapters the final deal will contain.

But Socialist EU lawmaker Bernd Lange said the last five days of talks in Brussels had delivered hardly any progress.

"Nothing will come of it like this," Lange said. "The Americans are still not moving towards the European ideas," he added, arguing that the list of unresolved issues on public procurement alone "stretches to the moon."

Both negotiators acknowledged that much work still remains to be done.

"The gap between the levels of ambition on tariffs and procurement remains a serious cause of concern," Garcia Bercero said, while his US counterpart noted that progress on trade in services provisions has been "noticeably and painfully slow."

Trade experts on both sides of the Atlantic will continue their talks over the coming months, with a view to agreeing a common text on most aspects of the deal by the end of the summer. Negotiators will then tackle the toughest of outstanding issues.

Latest news

Six injured, 96 detained in Berlin fan clashes

Six people were treated in hospital and 96 detained in clashes in Berlin between fans of Hertha Berlin and Eintracht Frankfurt, police said Sunday.

Croatian government condemns extremism

The Croatian government on Sunday condemned all forms of extremism and acts of provocative nature aimed against the Serb minority in Vukovar as well as the rally organised by the Autochthonous Croatian Party of Rights (A-HSP) in Zagreb on Friday.

Approx. 7,500 migrants prevented from illegally entering Serbia in past 8 months

In the past several months, the authorities have prevented the illegal entry of approximately 7,500 migrants on Serbian soil. Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said Sunday.

Merkel's conservatives and Schulz's centre-left draw even in survey

Voter support for the German centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) is on par with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, a survey published Sunday showed.

Police arrest A-HSP party chief at rally in Zagreb

Police arrested Autochthonous Croatian Party of Rights (A-HSP) chief Drazen Keleminac for disturbing the peace at a public rally organised by the A-HSP in Zagreb on Sunday.

Kidnapped German archaeologists freed in Nigeria

Two German archaeologists who were kidnapped in northern Nigeria have been released, police said Sunday.

Turkey has built 290 kilometres of wall on border with Syria

Turkey has erected 290 kilometres of a planned 511-kilometre wall along its border with Syria, local media reported Sunday, citing the head of the building authority in charge of the project.

Syrian forces close in on city held by Turkish-backed rebels

Syrian government forces on Sunday seized a town from the Islamic State extremist militia near the northern city of al-Bab already under the control of Turkish-backed rebels, Syrian state media and monitors reported.

At least 90 Christian families escape Sinai attacks

At least 90 families reached Egypt's Ismailiya governorate, after escaping targeted killings by a local Islamic State militia in northern Sinai in recent days, an official at the Coptic Orthodox Church said Sunday.

40,000 Croats suffer from anorexia and bulimia

More than 40,000 Croatians, mostly girls and young women aged between 12 and 30, suffer from anorexia, bulimia or some other eating disorder and that number is growing each year, experts at the centre for eating disorders BEA have reported.

Iranian ex-president Ahmadinejad praises Trump

Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wrote a personal letter to Donald Trump in which he praised the US president and wished him well in his tenure, local media reported Sunday.

Russians honour slain opposition leader Nemtsov in Moscow rally

A demonstration on the second anniversary of the assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov drew thousands of people to the streets of Moscow on Sunday.