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The French President is willing to give the EU-UK talks “one last chance” because failure to secure a deal would leave France’s fishermen shut out of Britain’s coastal waters. Clement Beaune, who has helped shape Paris’ Brexit strategy, hinted the hard-line state could offer last-minute concessions on fishing rights to get an agreement over the line. The French Europe minister said securing access to UK fishing grounds is a “priority” for his country as the wrangling over the Brexit trade and security deal enters the final stretch.
Mr Beaune said: “If the deal is bad we won’t accept it.
“That would mean that our fishermen no longer have access to UK waters. It’s for that reason that we haven’t already stopped the negotiations, that’s why we’re giving them one last chance.”
His remarks will raise hopes that France will offer Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, more room to manoeuvre in the coming days.
Philippe Leglise-Costa, France’s Brussels envoy, didn’t join Denmark in calling for the EU to give no more ground on fishing during a meeting of senior diplomats on Tuesday.
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At the gathering, Mr Barnier all but conceded he had made his “final offer” to Britain on post-Brexit fishing rights and the haggling was now in the hands of EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen.
The top eurocrat has been in “constant contact” with Prime Minister Boris Johnson as they attempt to hammer out a last-minute compromise on the totemic issue.
Mr Barnier suggested the EU’s view was the UK is “not moving enough yet to clinch a fair deal on fisheries”.
And the Brussels diplomat last night all but conceded he has taken the talks on fish as far as he can.
He kicked the issue upstairs to Mr Johnson and Mrs von der Leyen to find a political compromise in the coming days.
Mr Barnier told MEPs: “It’s at this level this issue needs to be dealt with – the President and UK Prime Minister – in order to try and find a compromise.”
At a private meeting with the EU Parliament’s Brexit committee, the Frenchman revealed he had made his “final offer” on fishing.
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It is understood Mrs von der Leyen is so keen to wrap up a deal that she is now heavily lobbying EU coastal states to accept a compromise on fishing.
The Brussels boss was said to have kept Michel Barnier in the dark over the phone call with Mr Johnson amid concerns her chief negotiator is not willing to offer more ground to Britain.
Mrs von der Leyen is likely to speak with key figures, such as France’s President Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel, as the talks continue.
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Downing Street sources rejected suggestions the Government is planning to compromise on fishing access.
It followed reports the PM proposed that EU boats should hand back 30-35 per cent by value of their current catches in Britain’s coastal waters, to be phased in over five years.
That is down from an initial demand for a 60 per cent cut over three years, but the compromise was reportedly rejected by Brussels.
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