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Brexit: Britain grants fishing concessions as hopes for an EU trade deal grow


Hopes for a post-Brexit trade deal faded tonight as Britain accused the EU of putting new demands on the negotiating table at the last minute.

With the clock ticking for an agreement before Britain severed ties with the bloc on December 31, talks in London get to the point.

They appear to have gotten stuck tonight after a pizza-powered seat between the two teams, led by Lord Frost and Michel Barnier, ended in a standoff.

A senior UK government source pointed a finger at Brussels and said: “In the eleventh hour, the EU is bringing new elements to the negotiations.

"A breakthrough is still possible in the next few days, but that prospect is diminishing."

State aid rules and access for European fishermen to UK waters were the main problems that prevented an agreement.

Formal discussions were fueled by takeaway pizza last night in the growing hope that a deal between the two sides could be imminent.

A tower of pizza boxes was delivered to the Ministry of Economy, Energy and Industrial Strategy, where discussions will take place as the talks progressed.

This afternoon negotiators switched their order to sandwiches as they continue to try to break the impasse on crisis issues.

The two sides are still divided on fishing rights after Brexit, the so-called "level playing field" in terms of rules and the future governance of the agreement.

Fisheries is seen as the biggest problem area by the UK but there are now signs of movement on this issue. Britain and the bloc are now to be seriously haggling over fish quotas.

Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, said yesterday that the talks were reaching a "make-or-break moment" with the possibility that an agreement could be reached tonight or tomorrow.

In an attempt to break the impasse, Barnier said Boris Johnson lowered his demands by asking to get back only 60 percent of the fish EU boats currently catch in UK waters from 80 percent.

At the same time, the EU has signaled that it will comply with the Prime Minister's request to negotiate fishing quotas annually, as Brussels does with Norway.

A large stack of takeaway pizzas was delivered to negotiators last night in the growing hope that a UK-EU trade deal would be reached after Brexit

Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, said yesterday that the talks were reaching a "make-or-break moment".

Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, said yesterday that the talks were reaching a "make-or-break moment".

What are the main issues with the post-Brexit trade talks?

There are three main areas where the UK and the EU have failed to reach an agreement.

These are fishing rights after Brexit, the so-called “level playing field” for rules and future governance of the agreement.

Fishing rights: Britain will become an independent coastal state on January 1st, when the transition period ends. This means it will have control of its waters, giving priority to British fishermen. The EU wants to give its trawlers access to UK waters, but the two sides have been unable to agree on the details. In simple terms, the EU wants to keep more fish from the UK than the UK is willing to allow. Fishing is seen as the main obstacle to a deal by the UK.

The "level playing field": The EU wants the UK to agree to closely follow the rules on state aid and workers' rights enacted in Brussels in the future in order to prevent UK companies from having an unfair advantage over their competitors on the continent. The UK doesn't want to be too tightly bound by EU rules as it sees the freedom to act unilaterally on such issues as one of the main benefits of Brexit.

Governance of the deal: The two sides endeavor to agree how the terms of the trade agreement will be enforced if either party fails to meet its obligations. Much of the disagreement concerns the role of the European Court of Justice.

Irish Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney said this morning that he believed there was a "good chance that we will get a deal across the line in the next few days" as he warned there would be "no extra time".

Downing Street said at lunchtime that "intense" talks were ongoing and the two sides "continue to work hard to resolve remaining differences".

However, the government risked worsening the atmosphere of the negotiations after confirming that ministers intend to proceed with plans that would allow them to tear apart parts of the original Brexit divorce deal.

The government has announced that it will reintroduce controversial measures relating to Northern Ireland into the UK Internal Market Act, which has been removed from the House of Lords.

Brussels is vehemently against the proposals that the UK has admitted to violate international law.

When asked whether the decision to ask MPs to reintroduce the measures into the draft law could disrupt trade talks, the prime minister's official spokesman said: "We understood that these clauses provided a legal safety net To protect the integrity of the UK internal market to protect the tremendous gains of the peace process. & # 39;

British officials said to Politico this morning, "We are still going" and it is "still not clear if we will get there" but optimism is growing that a deal may be near now.

During yesterday's video conference with European diplomats and MPs, Barnier said there was still no guarantee that a trade deal would be struck.

"I honestly don't know if we can reach an agreement," said the senior European Commission official.

& # 39; We are quickly approaching a moment of interruption in the Brexit talks. The next hours and days will be decisive. & # 39;

Downing Street said last night that Mr Johnson remains "optimistic" that the UK can reach a post-Brexit trade deal with Brussels.

His spokesman Allegra Stratton added: “Talks are ongoing and he has great confidence in David Frost [the UK negotiator] and the team.

& # 39; He's optimistic, but he's also always said he's confident and satisfied that we'd be fine without a deal.

"If a deal is struck, that's a good thing, but he's also confident that we can act on the terms he calls Australia."

Failure to negotiate and implement a trade deal before the end of the post-Brexit transition would force the EU and UK to act on basic World Trade Organization terms from January 1, which would mean tariffs on goods .

EU diplomats admitted last night that even if both sides manage to reach an agreement, the ratification process may not be easy, with the possibility that individual Member States could still try to block it.

"We have to find a compromise where the UK can say they won and the EU can say they haven't lost," a source close to the talks said.

Boris Johnson is said to have lowered his post-Brexit fishing rights demands to break the impasse

Boris Johnson is said to have lowered his post-Brexit fishing rights demands to break the impasse

Lines on access to British waters have been one of the main remaining stumbling blocks in the negotiations over the past few weeks.

At present the Common Fisheries Policy dictates how many British fishermen can catch and where, and fishermen have often complained that they are not getting a fair share of what is caught in British waters.

According to EU sources, Barnier is now calling for 60 percent of the fish currently caught from European boats, according to Downing Street, compared to 80 percent previously. So far, the EU has offered the repatriation of around 15 to 18 percent of the catches.

Fishing accounts for just 0.12 percent of UK GDP but is seen as extremely symbolic in the Brexit talks.

British fishermen claim their industries were sacrificed to secure the country's place in the European Economic Community in 1973.