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Michel Barnier is in London for talks with Lord Frost this week in what is seen as a last chance to secure a deal, with impasses remaining over fisheries, state aid and the level playing field. With just a month to go until the end of the transition period, talks remain stuck on fishing rights, which was described by Dominic Raab as an “outstanding major bone of contention”.
But the Foreign Secretary said there was “a deal to be done” after the EU showed progress on the so-called level playing field which is aimed at preventing unfair competition.
As he entered trade talks in London, Mr Barnier was asked if there was reason for optimism and he said: “There are reasons for determination.”
A Whitehall source close to the negotiations stressed today the shift of position gave a “strong indication” a deal could be secured “by the end of the week.”
The source told Express.co.uk the EU appeared to be close to some form of breaking point” anticipating a “compromise” or deal could be secured by the end of the week.
They hinted there was a strong chance of the deal being secured by Friday, adding: “The impasse seems to be closing and it’s looking promising.
“But the EU must understand we are not giving up our sovereignty and want a deal that respects our terms.”
Another No.10 source said a deal is expected to be reached at “last minute”.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said some gaps remain on fishing rights and the “level playing field” arrangements aimed at preventing unfair competition.
He said: “Although there has been some progress there still remain divergences on the issues of fisheries and level-playing field.
“We want to try and reach a free-trade agreement as soon as possible.
“But we have been clear that we won’t change our negotiating position and we have been clear what that position is.”
Environment Secretary George Eustice said Britain wants “zonal attachment” to agree a total allowable catch for the United Kingdom’s waters.
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This step would give it a much larger quota share than if the fish maths were worked out on the EU’s proposals.
Mr Eustice said: “All we’re asking for is there to be annual negotiations based on the science and also for there to be a move towards a fairer, more scientific sharing methodology which is called zonal attachment which is broadly where the fish are to be found.”
“Under that analysis we currently only have access to about half of the fish in our own waters, that is profoundly unfair on our fishermen, we’ve been clear throughout that needs to change.”
This is a stark comparison to Mr Barnier’s position who recently said the EU could accept a 15-18 percent cut in its share of fishing rights in UK waters, but British officials immediately rejected the offer.
The EU Commission added this afternoon it was still focused on reaching a new partnership agreement with Britain before the end of the year.
European Commission, Daniel Ferrie spokesperson, said: “We’re fully concentrated on the Brexit negotiations right now.”
“If contingency measures are needed, they would be limited and tailored to the existing very specific circumstances, and would be adopted in time to ensure that we are fully prepared for the first of January.”
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