Brexit: Macron has 'toned down' fishing demands says Xafa
The French President has been among the more vocal supporters of the EU’s hardline approach and has vowed to veto any Brexit deal if the terms fail to meet the demands of his country’s fishing industry. His demands come despite Boris Johnson insisting the UK will thrive with or without a deal from January after the transition period ends on December 31.
Keep pushing and the British will fold
Mr Macron is also understood to have rejected Mr Johnson’s calls for face-to-face talks in a bid to break the Brexit deadlock.
According to diplomats, Mr Macron told his EU counterparts: “Keep pushing and the British will fold.”
But Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the French were “crazy” to make “aggressive demands” when a no deal scenario would leave their boats with “zero assured access” to UK fishing grounds.
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Talks on a post-Brexit trade deal are continuing after Mr Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen agreed to push back today’s deadline.
In a joint statement they agreed to “go the extra mile” in an effort to find a solution after almost a year of negotiations.
The statement said: “We had a useful phone call this morning. We discussed the major unresolved topics.
“Our negotiating teams have been working day and night over recent days.
“And, despite the exhaustion after almost a year of negotiations, despite the fact that deadlines have been missed over and over, we think it is responsible at this point to go the extra mile.
“We have accordingly mandated our negotiators to continue the talks and to see whether an agreement can even at this late stage be reached.”
The agreement to carry on talking came despite pessimistic briefings from both sides of the negotiations in the run-up to the deadline set for Sunday on the future of the process.
Mr Raab suggested there could be room for manoeuvre on the end point of the negotiations over a free trade agreement.
He said there is “a long way to go” to find a resolution on the two outstanding issues of fisheries and so-called level playing field “ratchet” clause which would tie the UK to future EU standards.
Mr Raab told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show the bar that would need to be crossed to continue talking is “quite high”, suggesting that some movement must have been achieved for Mr Johnson and Ms von der Leyen to reach that conclusion.
He said: “We would need at a political level a commitment to move on those two key issues.”
He continued: “When you look at what I said at the start of the week, it is pretty similar to what I’m saying now, which is never say never because EU negotiations can often drag and drift.
“But, actually, we do need finality and therefore we need at the political level of Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, that there is clarity the EU will move on those two key issues.
“If we get that then there are still talks to be processed.”
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Business leaders have repeatedly called for a deal and have been exasperated by the continued uncertainty.
British Chambers of Commerce director-general Adam Marshall said it has been a “very frustrating time” but “if a few more hours or days makes the difference, keep going”.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “The 11th hour has passed and every passing moment of uncertainty makes it harder for businesses to prepare effectively for January 1.
“Without a deal, the British public will face over £3 billion in food tariffs, and retailers would have no choice but to pass on some of these additional costs to their customers who would see higher prices filter through during 2021.”
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