France has been urged by other EU nations to drop its hardline fishing demands amid concerns that French President Emmanuel Macron could jeopardize hopes of a post-Brexit trade deal.
Other EU nations have shown a willingness to compromise on fishing so as to secure future access to the UK waters. But France wants to maintain the status quo for French fishermen after the end of the transition period in December which has made fisheries one of the biggest stumbling blocks why a post-Brexit trade deal has not been possible.
Influential EU members are expected to tell President Macron that there’re much larger economic issues to consider, like the regulatory level playing field.
Speaking about increasing divisions between the union, one EU source said fisheries are “important for certain parts of Europe” but the “level playing field is key for all. If you have no way to react to the unfair competition you are in a situation where you might destroy your own economy – that’s a concern for leaders.”
And another senior diplomat said Angela Merkel is expected to warn President Macron to quit demanding full access or risk losing all access to British waters.
“Everybody knows if there is no deal then European quota in British waters is zero – now it’s 100 per cent. Johnson has said there needs to be a significant difference, it’s politically sensitive but technically possible,” the source said.
Last night Paris maintained its demand for fishing, threatened to block a deal if the UK does not comply with the demand with Europe minister Clement Beaune saying, “The British want their waters back and this, they believe gives them leverage.
“But they forget that for everything else they are negotiating on, they have a lot more to ask than to offer.”
One diplomat from another EU state warned, “If anything I think the EU position might be hardening rather than softening.”
It’s also expected that the most influential capitals will urge their colleagues to move towards a compromise if Boris Johnson makes a move towards the bloc’s position in a phone call with EU presidents Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel.
According to one top diplomatic, “The deadline is really a British deadline; it’s not an EU deadline.
“That said I think the heads of state and government will want to send a strong signal that they’re interested, willing to negotiate for as long as possible that they want an agreement and that the negotiations should be intensified now but I don’t see them sending the sort of signal that would lead to an early agreement, that was never intended.”
“What we want to show is we are willing and ready once the UK moves to work really, really hard as necessary to work in time to conclude a deal, just to show there’s a huge interest on our side because of the size of the economic relationship,” another senior European diplomat said.
A spokesperson for Mr Johnson said, “There are still differences, with fisheries being the starkest. We need to get substance settled and not having a common text to work from has made progress doubly difficult.
“The PM’s September 7 statement was very clear about the significance of October 15. He will need to take a decision on next steps following the European Council in the light of his conversation with President von der Leyen and on advice from his negotiating team. We cannot prejudge that decision.”