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The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator will beg ministers from the bloc’s most influential fishing states for more wriggle room to break the deadlock in talks with the UK over a trade deal. He is understood to be ready to make concessions in an attempt to stop talks about a future EU-UK trade deal collapsing this month. A source said: “He will be in contact with fisheries ministers this week.”
The move comes as France faces mounting pressure to drop its hardline demand to retain the same level of access to Britain’s fishing grounds after the transition period expires at the end of the year.
And Germany urged European capitals to support a Brexit compromise because “more is at stake” than during last year’s bitter wrangling over the divorce treaty.
Mr Barnier travelled to Berlin for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel and foreign minister Heiko Maas.
Mrs Merkel, who holds the EU’s rotating presidency, is seen as a vital figure in the bid to sell a climbdown on fisheries to member states.
After their meeting, Mr Maas said: “As the European Union, we are going into the last stages of these talks with a constructive attitude. We still want a solution but of course there are areas which for us are very important.”
He signalled Germany now needs a Brexit more than ever amid signs Mrs Merkel will push hardliners like Emmanuel Macron to back down.
The German foreign minister added: “People on both sides are currently busy enough shouldering the health-related and economic challenges and it would therefore be totally irresponsible to burden them with additional problems resulting from a no deal.
“There are currently a lot of open questions and if we want to make it to the finish line we must make quick decisions in all these open questions.
“A lot has happened in the past year and it must be said that maybe more is at stake today than one year ago.”
After the latest round of talks with Brussels, Lord Frost, the Prime Minister’s Brexit envoy, warned without more “realism and flexibility from the EU” a deal on fisheries “risks being impossible”.
And during a phone call over the weekend, Mr Johnson stressed the importance of securing a significant win for British fishermen after more than 40 years under the bloc’s Common Fisheries Policy.
In a no deal Brexit, European vessels will be largely shut out of the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone, which stretches as far as 200 nautical miles from the country’s coast.
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Until now, Brussels has been demanding unchanged access to Britain’s fishing grounds after December 31.
Britain has proposed a three-year transition period, which would see quotas for UK fishermen steadily increase each year to as much as double the current arrangements, while negotiations over access continue in the future.
Mr Barnier is expected to travel to London on Wednesday for more talks with Lord Frost after both sides agreed to accelerate their efforts towards securing a trade deal.
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The pair could agree to hold further formal rounds of negotiations after a crunch summit of European leaders on October 15, the deadline set by Mr Johnson to establish whether an agreement is still possible.
They have agreed to remain in more frequent contact in a bid to find a solution on the main sticking points – fisheries and future state subsidies policy.
Mrs von der Leyen has also instructed her top Brexit adviser, Stephanie Riso, to remain in constant contact with No10 as the negotiations intensify.
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