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Foreign affairs minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Downing Street was slowing the negotiations in an attempt to win concessions on the main sticking points. But he insisted Paris would not cave in on its demands for near-parity access to Britain’s coastal waters after Brexit. “The outcome is uncertain,” Mr Le Drian told a parliamentary hearing.
“British overtures remain insufficient on the most sensitive matters.”
He suggested the current blockage was down to a tactical game being played by UK negotiator Lord Frost.
The wrangling over the post-Brexit trade agreement was said to have descended into acrimony after the latest stand-off over fishing rights and state aid rules.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, told Lord Frost he would not travel to London for face-to-face talks this week unless a deal looks possible.
It was said Mr Barnier had grown frustrated after a number of “pointless” discussions in which his UK counterpart had refused to agree to the bloc’s demands.
An EU source said: “The British are frankly laughing at us, time is very short. If nothing moves in London we risk going towards no deal.”
Another insider added the Brussels diplomat had made “no decision” on whether to resume in-person wrangling after talks were halted because of a coronavirus scare.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said EU leaders would have to support a compromise with Boris Johnson in order to strike a deal.
The Prime Minister told MPs the EU was refusing to accept the UK’s status as an independent coastal state.
He said: “Our position on fish hasn’t changed. We’ll only be able to make progress if the EU accepts the reality that we must be able to control access to our waters and it’s very important at this stage to emphasis that.”
In a speech to the European Parliament in Brussels, Mrs von der Leyen said she was unable to say whether the trade and security deal would be reached in the “very little time ahead of us”.
She said “These are decisive days for negotiations with the United Kingdom .
“But frankly, I cannot tell you today if in the end, there will be a deal.”
Brussels’ top eurocrat vowed to let Mr Barnier push his negotiating mandate to its limits to find solutions for the disputes over fishing rights and state aid rules.
“We will do all in our power to reach an agreement. We’re ready to be creative,” Mrs von der Leyen said.
EU leaders would also have to throw their weight behind the compromise to prevent negotiations from collapsing, she added.
The Commission chief said: “It is when we managed to join forces that we Europeans can achieve the most. It is when we negotiate hard, and then stick to the compromise, that we move forward fast.”
The bloc is expected to rubber-stamp the future EU-UK relationship at a Brussels summit on December 10.
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