In Brief

Johnson must fold on fishing rights to avoid no-deal Brexit, Macron warns

Prime minister ‘dismayed’ and ‘startled’ as EU leaders call his bluff over threat to quit talks

EU leaders led by Emmanuel Macron have “disappointed” UK negotiators by insisting that Boris Johnson must back down in a row over fishing rights in order to get a Brexit deal, Lord David Frost said yesterday. 

The prime minister’s chief negotiator spoke out after Macron called “Johnson’s bluff on his threat to walk out of negotiations” by insisting that Britain must concede a “good settlement” that will preserve fishing access for French boats in UK waters after the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December, The Times reports.

“Under no condition can our fishermen be sacrificed during Brexit,” said the French president. “If conditions aren’t met, it’s possible we don’t have an agreement. We are ready for that. If there are no good terms found at the end of the discussion, we are ready for a no-deal.”

According to The Times, Johnson was “dismayed” by the ultimatum, which as The Guardian notes, appears to be a “direct challenge” to the PM’s threat last month to quit negotiations if no agreement was reached at this week’s crunch summit in Brussels.

Macron’s warning has “startled” No. 10 and is “regarded as incendiary”, as Johnson had said he would make a decision today on whether to continue the talks, The Guardian adds. 

Criticising the EU’s stance, negotiating chief Frost last night tweeted that he was “surprised EU is no longer committed “to working ‘intensively’ to reach a future partnership” as had been agreed during talks with the European Commission two weeks ago.

“Boris Johnson will set out UK reactions and approach tomorrow in the light of his statement of 7 September,” Frost wrote. 

Meanwhile, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said fresh “intensive” talks should be held, with the aim of reaching a deal around the end of October. Both sides are calling on each other to compromise on key issues that also include state aid.

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