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Michel Barnier jets in for crunch Brexit talks

Michel Barnier jets in for crunch Brexit talks: EU’s chief negotiator will hold emergency meeting with British counterpart David Frost amid warnings they have only a month to strike a deal

  • ‘Informal’ discussions are expected to focus on state aid rules and fishing rights 
  • The EU wants guarantees that the UK will not undercut its own industries 
  • France accused Britain of deliberately stalling post-Brexit trade negotiations 

Boris Johnson’s chief Brexit negotiator will hold emergency talks with his EU counterpart today amid warnings that there is just a month left to strike a deal.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier will travel to London for the unscheduled talks with David Frost in a bid to break the deadlock.

The ‘informal’ discussions are expected to focus on state aid rules and fishing rights, the two issues that have emerged as the biggest barriers to a deal. 

Formal negotiations will resume next week.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier (right) will travel to London for the unscheduled talks with David Frost (left) in a bid to break the deadlock

A Whitehall source said that although the UK’s transition period from the EU is not due to finish until the end of the year, there is ‘realistically only a month’ to agree a deal in time for it to be ratified.

Both sides have become increasingly gloomy about the prospects for a deal in recent weeks after hopes of a summer breakthrough faded.

France yesterday accused Britain of deliberately stalling post-Brexit trade deal negotiations and having unreasonable expectations.

Speaking to his nation’s ambassadors, French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said: ‘Negotiations are not advancing because of the intransigent and unrealistic attitude of the United Kingdom.’ 

But British sources said the deadlock was due to the EU’s intransigence.

‘They don’t seem to be prepared to move on any of the big things,’ one said.

Talks are currently stalled over fishing rights and state aid rules. 

The Prime Minister has said that from the end of this year, the UK will determine access for foreign trawlers in British waters, in common with other independent coastal states.

But the EU is demanding that its fishing fleet continues to enjoy its existing access rights indefinitely. 

Brussels is also demanding to know details of the UK’s state aid regime – the rules on bailouts of struggling companies and sectors – before moving on to other areas of negotiation.

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson (pictured) has said that from the end of this year, the UK will determine access for foreign trawlers in British waters

The EU wants guarantees that the UK will not undercut its own industries.

But British ministers insist that as an independent country, the UK should be free to set its own industrial policy.

Mr Le Drian insisted yesterday the bloc of 27 will not buckle under pressure from London, adding: ‘On Brexit we always showed unity and proved wrong those who saw signs of an overall implosion of Europe. 

‘It is in staying united that we can stick to our line of a global accord.’

But UK ministers are also confident Mr Johnson will not back down, raising the prospect of leaving without a trade deal at the end of this year unless negotiators can achieve a sudden breakthrough.

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