UK/EU fishing plan on table ‘in weeks’ – but only if Barnier concedes ground to Britain

UK/EU fishing plan on table ‘in weeks’ – but only if Barnier concedes ground to Britain

The Prime Minister wants his counterparts to give Brussels encouragement to accelerate the talks after Michel Barnier claimed last week’s negotiating round ended in disappointment. British negotiators have sensed the Brussels bureaucrat is ready to seek to loosen his hardline negotiating mandate handed him by European capitals in hopes of striking an agreement before the end of the year. The Frenchman has been enraged by the “lack of progress” after David Frost, the Prime Minister’s lead negotiator, refused to surrender to the EU’s demands to maintain the “status quo” for access. 

He even accused British negotiators of deliberately “slowing down” the talks while his deputies said their counterparts were not even seeking to strike a deal.

But privately Mr Frost’s team believe the Frenchman now understands a deal won’t be reached in line with the terms of his negotiating mandate set by European capitals.

In hope of breaking the deadlock, British negotiators are also hoping their counterparts agree to intensify the trade talks.

The two sides are not due to hold more week-long, virtual talks again until May and June.

Downing Street wants Brussels to break standard convention and “short circuit” the usual negotiating process in order to match its ambitious timetable.

The Prime Minister’s Taskforce Europe could even publish a draft fisheries text within weeks to hammer home the point to the bloc’s leaders.

Senior EU officials have already conceded they will be forced to revise the mandate given to them by member states in order to soften their red lines.

One source said: “Over time we must decide whether we should move or not.”

However, Mr Barnier is still under orders to maintain the same level of access for European trawlermen to Britain’s waters as the price for any trade deal.

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The Frenchman said: “There will be no trade agreement without an agreement on fisheries. For the moment, the UK has understood our message.

“I think they will come back with proposals and we’re willing to discuss those with member states and those involved in the fishing industry.”

Published at Sun, 26 Apr 2020 19:01:00 +0000