express– UK Brexit envoy Lord Frost was said to be prepared to lower his demands for future fishing quotas if Brussels agrees to back down in other areas of the agreement. Sources close to the talks say the UK is now willing to accept between 30-35 percent of the £590million worth of fish caught by European boats in our coastal waters this year. Downing Street was previously insisting on reclaiming as much as 60 percent for British fishermen with the EU setting its price for a deal at 25 percent.
EU officials have been floating the compromise across hardline states, such as France and Denmark, to establish whether Michel Barnier has further room to manoeuvre.
But it is feared the wrangling could still collapse over the EU’s demands to slap Britain with punitive tariffs if the Government decides to restrict access for European vessels to UK waters.
Britain has said it would accept a three-year period while the EU was asking for the new arrangements to be phased in over seven years.
But the two sides could meet in the middle ground with a five-year transition period.
Government sources rejected claims the UK has offered concessions on fishing quotas to secure a deal.
The claim was dismissed by UK sources, who said they “don’t recognise those reports at all”.
Chances of the compromise offer ending in a deal hinge on Emmanuel Macron, according to EU diplomats.
One said the French President would block any future concessions because he feels too much ground on the totemic issue has already been given.
French Europe minister Clement Beaune said: “There have been successive proposals from the UK, sometimes on fishing, that don’t respond to European priorities and demands.
“Difficulties remain, in the fishing sector – but not only, so it would be a error of judgment and unacceptable stigmatisation to say that a few countries or a few sectors are blocking.”
Boris Johnson warned Brussels last night Britain will walk away without a deal if it refuses to compromise in the final days of talks.
The Prime Minister said the negotiations are stuck and told the EU it must accept the UK will take control of its laws and borders.
Speaking from No 10, he insisted the country can “certainly cope” with any difficulties caused by moving on to world trade organisation rules from January 1.
He said: “The position is unchanged. There are problems. It is vital everybody understands that the UK has got to be able to control its own laws completely and also that we have got to be able to control our own fisheries.
“And it remains the case that WTO terms would be more than satisfactory for the UK and we can certainly cope with any difficulties that are thrown our way.”
Mr Johnson said he still believes the country will “prosper mightily” whether a deal is struck or not.
Lord Frost will continue talks with EU negotiator Mr Barnier tomrrow in Brussels with just nine days left until transition arrangements expire.
But sources close to the negotiations said discussions remained “difficult” with fishing and state subsidies still holding up a deal.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said “time is obviously in very short supply” to get a deal done.
“We will need to ratify any agreement ahead of January 1. The Leader of the House made clear that we would recall Parliament in order to give MPs a vote on the necessary legislation,” he added.
“We have been clear on this point that we will either leave the transition period on December 31 with a free-trade agreement or we will leave with Australia-style WTO terms. That remains the case.”