Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson
PIC: AFP

The European Union took a defiant tone on Wednesday as the standoff over resuming post-Brexit trade negotiations with the United Kingdom intensified, telling London that "you cannot have your cake and eat it too."

European Council President Charles Michel refused to bow to British insistence for the EU to fundamentally change its negotiating stance and cede more to U.K. demands. Michel said instead that if Britain wants vast access to the 27-member bloc's markets, it will equally have to keep its waters open to EU fishermen, something the UK government has said it doesn't want to do.

In a combative display at the European Parliament, Michel said: "Yes, we want to keep access to U.K. waters for our fishermen. Exactly like the U.K., too, want to keep access to our huge and diversified markets for its companies." Britain and the EU have been attempting to strike a new trade deal since the U.K. left the bloc on Jan. 31.

Those talks ground to a halt last week, with each side calling for the other to compromise in order to secure a deal. The EU said it was happy to keep talking, but Johnson said Friday that negotiations were over unless there was a "fundamental" shift from the bloc.

Since then, the EU has agreed to "intensify" talks - a key U.K. demand - and to discuss the legal text of an agreement. But Johnson's Downing Street office said Tuesday that it wasn't a big enough change to resume negotiations.

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