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The Brussels diplomat told a private meeting handing British boats greater opportunities to land fish from their coastal waters was “key to reach an agreement”. According to EU sources familiar with the meeting, the Frenchman told MEPs he had “budged” in recent negotiations with UK counterpart Lord Frost after admitting talks are “on a trajectory” to a no-deal Brexit. Mr Barnier conceded UK vessels would see a “degree of development in fishing opportunities”, one insider told Express.co.uk.
He told the meeting: “We’re happy to compromise if it is reasonable and sustainable.”
Responding to recent reports Britain’s fleet could see their catch quotas as much as double, Mr Barnier admitted this could “spell an end to the Common Fisheries Policy”.
Amid growing pressure from French President Emmanuel Macron, the EU Brexit chief insisted he was trying to secure a better deal for the bloc’s trawlermen.
Brussels will not just accept a “50/50” split on fishing opportunities because that would lead to the “destruction of the Dutch, French and Belgian” fleets, Mr Barnier said, according to a source.
He explained to MEPs he had to climb down from the bloc’s demands for status quo access to Britain’s coastal waters because Downing Street no longer cares about the Common Fisheries Policy.
Mr Barnier will travel to London on Sunday to resume wrangling over the post-Brexit trade agreement with Lord Frost.
Talks in Brussels broke up earlier this week with both sides warning of “divergences” between their position on the key sticking points.
The chief negotiators said they had failed to make breakthroughs in the talks over access to Britain’s waters and future common standards.
However, they said progress had been made putting pen to paper on the Brexit legal text, including on the crucial issue of policing any future agreement.
Senior figures in Brussels have claimed chances of a no-deal Brexit are rising after a gloomy assessment of the talks by Mr Barnier.
France’s top eurocrat Thierry Breton said it was now “50/50” whether both sides would be able to reach an agreement by the end of the year.
The close ally of President Macron insisted the bloc would not allow Britain access to the single market with the freedom to diverge from its rules.
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Mr Breton said: “We are extremely clear on the conditions and the access to our European market.”
It also emerged that Mr Barnier blocked a “mass bargaining session” between Boris Johnson and EU leaders, such as Angela Merkel and Ursula von der Leyen.
The EU negotiator said the Prime Minister wanted to have a “big tug of war” of as many as 30 unresolved issues in the trade talks.
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Mr Barnier warned such a high stakes showdown would see Britain play off access to its coastal waters against the bloc’s demand for a regulatory level playing field.
One Brussels source said Mr Barnier was furious with continuous attempts to sideline him in favour of more lenient EU leaders.
“I keep telling them that’s not going to happen,” The bloc’s Brexit chief said, according to sources.
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