EU divided: Macron and Merkel at loggerheads over Barnier compromise as France plots veto

Brexit: Charles Michel says EU open ‘for all options’ in talks

With officials on both sides warning of further deadlock, the influential EU capitals were at loggerheads over whether to let Michel Barnier make a last-minute compromise to end the impasse. UK sources said progress had been made putting pen to paper on the Brexit trade deal but ongoing disputes over future fishing rights and common standards were blocking a breakthrough. An EU diplomat added: “Barnier is still there, things are not moving forward but that’s hardly new.”

The French government was in no mood to drop its uncompromising stance after it forced the EU’s Brexit chief Mr Barnier to table new demands that sparked a breakdown in the talks.

In an antagonistic television appearance, Europe minister Clement Beaune for the first time publicly declared his country’s plan to vote down the trade deal unless Boris Johnson offers significant concessions on access to Britain’s waters.

Mr Beaune fumed: “If there were a deal that isn’t good which in our evaluation doesn’t correspond to those interests, we will oppose it.

“France like all its partners has the means of a veto, we must make our own evaluation of course of this deal.

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“We owe that to the French people, we owe it to our fishermen, and to other economic sectors.”

The French sparked a blow-up in the talks after forcing Mr Barnier to make “eleventh hour” demands that prevented negotiators from getting a deal over the line.

But Angela Merkel today insisted the EU would have to give more ground if they are to clinch an agreement.

The German Chancellor’s spokesman said the bloc should be ready to “compromise” as time runs out.

Steffen Seibert said: “For the Chancellor, and that hasn’t changed for weeks, the willingness to compromise is needed on both sides.

“If you want to have a deal, both sides need to move towards each other. Everybody has their principles, there are red lines , that’s clear but there’s always room for compromise.”

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EU officials hinted that the bloc’s leaders could arrange an emergency summit later this month to rubber-stamp an agreement. 

They were due to sign off on the deal at their European Council gathering on December 10.

The European Parliament is still set to complete the EU’s ratification process during a special plenary session on December 28.

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Brexit: UK say talks for deal are at 'a very difficult point'

European Council President Charles Michel called for EU states to be unified as the trade talks go to the wire.

He told a news conference: “It is really essential to make sure that what we put on the table at the end of the negotiations will be accepted by all the member states.

“Until the last minute, the last second of the procedure we will guarantee that unity amongst ourselves.”

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