The Brussels negotiator insisted Boris Johnson would have to cave and allow unlimited access for European fishermen to British coastal waters if there is to be a deal. He also blew several Downing Street proposals on aviation, road haulage and the car industry out of the water after a fractious meeting with the Prime Minister’s Brexit envoy in London. But a UK Government source fired back at the Frenchman’s deal-ruining claims, insisting he had overstepped the mark with his speech to an Irish think-tank.
The source said: “Barnier’s speech is a deliberate and misleading caricature of our proposals aimed at deflecting scrutiny from the EU’s own positions which are wholly unrealistic and unprecedented.
“For our part, we have been consistently clear that we are seeking a relationship that respects our sovereignty and which has a free trade agreement at its core, similar to those the EU has already agreed with like-minded countries.”
The exchange of insults left chances of a deal looking unlikely ahead of a make-or-break round of trade talks next week look in danger of failure.
During the speech, Mr Barnier complained the UK was trying to “distort competition” by refusing to follow EU rules.
The Brussels bureaucrat also accused the Government of using the livelihoods of European fishermen as a “bargaining chip” in the wrangle.
Mr Barnier said: “Where the EU has shown openness to possible solutions, the UK has shunned our offers.
“Yet the UK government’s position would lock out Ireland’s fishermen and women from waters they fished in long before Ireland or the UK joined the European Economic Community in 1973.
“And of course, the fishermen and women of many other EU countries. That is just not acceptable.
“We fully understand and respect that the UK will become an independent coastal state, outside the Common Fisheries Policy.
“But we will not accept that the work and the livelihoods of these men and women be used as a bargaining chip in these negotiations.”
In response, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said Lord Frost and Mr Barnier had had “a useful review of the whole agenda” for the talks earlier this week.
“Major difficulties remain. The EU’s insistence on progress on state aid and fisheries is an obstacle to making progress overall.
“We remain in close contact with the EU side and look forward to the next round of talks next week in London.”
He added: “While an agreement is still possible and is still our goal, it is clear that is not going to be easy to achieve.
“The EU is insisting we must accept continuity on fisheries policy and that must be agreed before any other work in the negotiation, making it very difficult to progress.
“What we would like is to settle the simplest issues first in order to build momentum in the talks as time is short for both sides.”
Published at Wed, 02 Sep 2020 16:50:00 +0000