Emmanuel Macron has stunned Brussels by overriding Michel Barnier‘s decision to compromise with British negiotators. There are fears among Downing Street officials that the EU’s chief negotiator has essentially been ousted in the talks by the French leader. The revelation came during a Institute for Government panel discussion on fisheries from one of the think tank’s associates James Kane.
He said: “The EU position has definitely hardened a lot over time. It could now be fairly described as maximalist.
“The current EU position, to put it bluntly, is for everything to stay the same forever.
“The EU and UK fishing vessels would each have access to one another’s waters, and the quota shares that each vessel took would remain the same established on precedents in the 1970s
“The EU’s position is quite firm, and has firmed up quite a lot since the political declaration last year and has become even harder since the negotiations this year.”
He then revealed the growing row between France and Brussels: “It is very hardline position and one that is obviously driven by the member states with strong fishing interests including France and Denmark.
“We can clearly see some tension between Barnier’s team in the Commission and the member-states.
“The Taskforce UK has argued for a less extreme position on fisheries, one that accepts some degree of flexibility on quotas, and transitions over time, and the member-states have blocked this.”
Fisheries have been a major area of contention between the UK and EU during the Brexit talks, with both sides admitting that they will not strike an agreement by July.
British sources told The Guardian that an unexpected decision by fisheries ministers at a meeting with Mr Barnier rejected a move away from their hardline position.
Mr Barnier said “the EU wants the status quo, the UK wants to change everything”, before calling for compromise discussions “somewhere between”.
France, the Netherlands, Spain, Ireland, Denmark, Belgium, Germany and Sweden have so far refused to offer Mr Barnier flexibility on the key issue of fishing rights.
The EU now expects the talks to drag into October, a suggestion that senior UK sources insist is unacceptable.