Brexit talks

Fishing deal denied amid new deadline concerns

Emmanuel Macron

French president Emmanuel Macron is being urged to soften his stance

Talk of a major breakthrough in Brexit negotiations on the rights of European fleets to fish in UK waters were played down last night, as a business organisation issued another warning over firms’ level of readiness for the end of the transition period.

Sources in Brussels told The Guardian that the two negotiating teams had all but finalised terms on the level of access for EU boats to seas within the UK’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

There would be a transition period for phasing in changes understood to be between five and seven years.

However, Downing Street later rubbished the claims, with a Government source saying: “There’s been no breakthrough on fish. Nothing new has been achieved on this today.”

British sources have warned that the latest round of talks is “the final throw of the dice” and the process may still conclude without an agreement with the Cabinet ready to back a No Deal Brexit.

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Thirteen Cabinet ministers – including eight remainers – are said to be supporting Mr Johnson walking away without a deal.

There is talk of Prime Minister Boris Johnson making a televised address to the nation announcing there is No Deal and putting the blame squarely on the EU.

France’s president Emmanuel Macron is facing pressure from fellow EU leaders to back down on his demands for full access to British waters. British officials claimed he derailed progress last week by forcing EU negotiator Michel Barnier to toughen his stance at the last minute.

But with time running out European leaders warned it was vital to strike a trade agreement.

The fevered speculation continued as the British Chambers of Commerce issued a list of 24 critical issues that need to be resolved to allow firms to prepare for the end of Britain’s trading deal with EU at the end of the month.

With only three weeks remaining of the Brexit transition period, negotiations between the UK and EU are delicately poised amid threats by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to declare there will be No Deal.

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