In Brief

Why Michel Barnier is warning EU leaders about ‘half-baked’ Brexit deal

Leaked memo reveals that chief negotiator fears compromise on fishing could weaken bloc’s hand

Michel Barnier has warned European Union leaders against signing off on a “half-baked” Brexit deal at crunch talks next week.

Ahead of the summit in Brussels, the EU’s chief negotiator told a meeting of European ambassadors on Wednesday that any hint of compromise, especially on fishing rights, would weaken the bloc’s position, according to a leaked memo seen by The Times.

Barnier is encouraging European leaders to insist on further UK concessions and to resist Boris Johnson’s efforts to turn the summit into a negotiating deadline.

Government ministers and EU officials had hinted that the UK and EU were on the verge of a trade deal, but Barnier is insisting that negotiations will need to continue until the end of the month and wants next week’s summit to be limited to a “taking stock” of the talks, the leaked memo reveals.

The Daily Express suggests that by restricting the scope of the summit discussions, the EU’s negotiating chief “is hoping to distract over the compromises he has already made in talks with UK counterpart David Frost, or is planning to make”.

A diplomatic source told The Times that “Boris keeps saying that a deal is ‘oven ready’ but Barnier will not want to come to leaders with any half-baked detail, especially on fish”.

Fishing rights have become one of the greatest obstacles in the Brexit negotiations, with Brussels seeking to retain access to British waters as No. 10 attempts to scrap the old quotas and make such access conditional on successful annual negotiations. 

The Financial Times reports that Brussels “is looking at how to compensate European fishermen that lose out from Brexit by handing them part of Britain’s old fishing rights in EU waters”.

As the row rumbles on, Barnier is due to meet the UK’s Frost for informal talks today.

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