When we said the Brexit talks were over, we said "I'll see you on Thursday": Michel Barnier is coming back to London to tell the diplomats that he "isn't worried about anything but fish".
- Post-Brexit trade talks between the UK and the EU resumed today in London
- Talks resumed after Britain accepted an olive branch from Michel Barnier from the EU
- The stalemate ended after the EU admitted that there had to be "compromises on both sides".
- EU officials privately believe Boris Johnson's threat to leave was "theater".
- Mr Barnier is said to have given diplomats only major blockades of fishing rights
Michel Barnier has told EU diplomats that a disagreement over fishing rights after Brexit is now the only major stumbling block to reaching a trade deal with the UK, as was claimed today.
The EU negotiator reportedly told a private meeting in Brussels on Wednesday evening that he was "not worried about anything but fish".
A diplomat who attended the briefing told Reuters that "fish is now the problem" and the "other elements seem more or less feasible".
The comments will increase hopes of an agreement between the two sides by mid-November as formal negotiations resume today in London and a week-long stalemate ends.
Negotiations were interrupted by Boris Johnson on Friday last week after the EU refused to move and he formally initiated preparations for a split without a trade deal.
But an olive branch from Mr Barnier was accepted by Downing Street yesterday when he finally admitted that there must be "compromises on both sides".
Talks resumed amid allegations that the EU never really believed that the Prime Minister was serious about stepping away from the negotiating table.
Michel Barnier reportedly told diplomats on Wednesday evening that post-Brexit fishing rights are now the only major stumbling block for the EU and Great Britain to reach a trade deal
Formal trade talks resumed today after alleging the EU's negotiating strategy is to create the appearance that Boris Johnson won so that he can sell the deal to Tory Brexiteers
EU officials told Bloomberg they were relaxed about Mr Johnson's tough talk because they believed there was a need for him to sell a deal to Tory Brexiteers.
Figures in Brussels reportedly viewed the decision to suspend talks a "theater" with the bloc apparently now focused on how to help Mr Johnson reach an agreement on the line with its Eurosceptic MPs.
A senior diplomat said the EU cares more about a deal than about winning the negotiations.
Both sides are expected to have intense talks in London by Sunday, with mid-November now being viewed as a potential landing place for an agreement.
This would give both sides just enough time to ratify and implement the deal before the end of the post-Brexit transition period in December.
Number 10 would not be drawn to a specific negotiating point this lunchtime, but said "the time is now very short" and "an agreement must be made before the end of the transition period".
The EU has agreed to step up talks – an important request from the UK. The negotiations are expected to take place almost daily and on the weekends in the coming weeks.
In the last few months, discussions about the crisis in fishing rights after Brexit, the so-called “level playing field” for EU rules and governance of the agreement, had stalled.
However, the comments reported by Mr Barnier from last night's briefing suggest that fishing is now the only major hurdle to an agreement.
There are fears that Emmanuel Macron's tough stance on the issue could stall all talks as he persists in demanding that French fishermen maintain their current access to British waters.
Downing Street firmly believes that UK trawlers will have priority access after the transition period.
Number 10 announced yesterday afternoon that after almost a week of interrupted discussions, Britain was "ready to welcome the EU team to London to resume negotiations".
The government said that while "significant gaps" exist "in the most difficult areas" between the two sides, it stands "ready to see if it is possible to bridge them through intensive talks".
However, Number 10 also warned: "It takes two to reach an agreement" and it is "quite possible that the negotiations will not be successful".
The decision to resume formal trade negotiations came after Mr Barnier finally admitted that there had to be "compromises on both sides" for an agreement to be reached.
He told the European Parliament that he believed "an agreement is within reach" but warned that "time is running out" as the time to the end of the transition period is running out.