In a private briefing, the Brussels diplomat claimed the Prime Minister was no longer asking for annual negotiations to decide post-Brexit fishing quotas. But he insisted the wrangling over fishing rights was far from over with both sides still “far apart” on access to UK waters and quota numbers. “Britain has accepted the EU demand that quotas can’t be negotiated annually,” an EU source said.
This comes after rumours of a potential breakthrough emerged last night but were swiftly quashed by Mr Barnier and Downing Street.
The Frenchman told MEPs he is struggling to reach an agreement on the period between future negotiations on fishing opportunities in British waters.
Britain has already rejected an EU proposal that would see talks held every day years.
Mr Barnier suggested a possible compromise could emerge with discussions every three to five years in the future.
However, he warned the wrangling was still very much stuck because of a British “wish” to block EU access in its exclusive six-to-12-miles from its coast.
And both sides also are still yet to reach an agreement on future quotas.
In a seperate briefing with EU27 ambassadors, Mr Barnier said fishing talks were thrown into “disarray” by a fresh proposal by the UK that would outlaw so-called flag ships.
Downing Street wants boats fishing in its waters to be majority owned by British firms.
The wrangling over future access to Britain’s coastal waters is no longer considered the most difficult challenge in the Brexit trade talks.
Mr Barnier explained to EU27 envoys that the main obstacle to a deal was no the so-called level playing field.
He is concerned about how Brussels can manage future divergences as the UK moves away from the bloc’s rulebook.
Both sides are currently working on potential systems for confirming whether any future state aid handouts create a trade distortion between the EU and UK.
And the EU is still insisting on a mechanism that would allow the EU to slap Britain with trade tariffs if the Government’s doesn’t keep in line with the bloc’s enviromental and social standards, as well as workers’ rights.
An EU diplomat said: “EU-UK negotiations have entered the endgame, time is running out quickly.
“Despite intensive negotiations until late last night, the gaps on level playing field, governance and fisheries are still not bridged. The outcome is still uncertain, it can still go both ways.
“The EU is ready to go the extra mile to agree on a fair, sustainable and balanced deal for citizens in the EU and UK. It is for the UK to choose between such a positive outcome or a no deal outcome.”