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Mr Barnier met UK counterpart David Frost for emergency talks outside the official rounds of negotiations in London on Tuesday in a desperate attempt to break the deadlock in post-Brexit trade talks. But Brussels’ head negotiator launched another stinging attack against Britain just 24 hours later, accusing the UK of holding EU fishermen hostage and sarcastically wishing London “good luck” with surviving a no-deal Brexit. He told the Dublin-based Institute of International and European Affairs the UK is showing no willingness to compromise over fishing rights and warned unless negotiators shifted their position significantly, there would be no deal with the EU.
Since the start of these negotiations, the UK has not shown any willingness to seek compromises on fisheries. The UK Government’s position has not evolved in the past months
On Tuesday, Boris Johnson’s official spokesman had blamed Brussels for the lack of progress in trade talks after last week’s latest round of negotiations.
Speaking ahead of the next round of negotiations in London next week, Mr Barnier, who has insisted a deal must be agreed by the end of October, hit back: “Since the start of these negotiations, the UK has not shown any willingness to seek compromises on fisheries.
“The UK Government’s position has not evolved in the past months.
“Obviously the UK will recover the full sovereignty of their waters. No doubt. No question.
“But it is another thing, another story, speaking about the fish which are inside those waters.
“Where the EU has shown openness to possible solutions, the UK has shunned our offers.”
But a UK source furiously hit back a Mr Barnier, and told The Daily Telegraph: “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.
“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 likeminded countries.”
Tim Smith, who held several senior roles under the premiership of Theresa May following the EU referendum in June 2016, including Head of Political Press and Special Adviser in the Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU), claimed that while the UK approach to talks has changed, Mr Barnier’s critique is still the same.
He tweeted: “I recall issuing nearly identical source quotes to Barnier speeches 2-3 years ago.
“UK approach changes and Barnier critique stays the same.”
Mr Barnier claimed the UK had not tabled any new legal texts on fishing rights, and suggested the EU could drop its demand for continued access to UK waters under the same terms as it enjoys with the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
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British negotiators are pushing for an agreement that would include annual negotiations over fishing opportunities based on the zonal attachment method rather than the CFP’s catch patterns.
The EU negotiator continued: “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 will not accept that the work and the livelihoods of these men and women be used as a bargaining chip in these negotiations.”
Mr Barnier wished the UK “good luck” in surviving a no-deal Brexit, warning there would be a “huge difference” between striking a trade deal and a no-deal exit at the end of the transition period on December 31.
He said: “Sometimes I listen to the UK speaking on the chance of no deal, the reporting of no deal. Good luck. Good luck. But frankly speaking, there is no reason to underestimate the consequences for many people.”
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator also warned Britain to back down on several red lines during next week’s latest round of talks, but remains hopeful a deal can be agreed, “even if it is very difficult because of the British politicians”.
Mr Barnier added: “The EU has repeatedly shown flexibility and creativity to work with the UK’s red lines – on the role of the European Court of Justice, on preserving the UK’s legislative autonomy and on fisheries.
“It is time for the UK to reciprocate on those issues that are fundamental for the EU.”
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