In Brief

Michel Barnier facing EU scrutiny over Brexit deal compromises

Emmanuel Macron leading chorus of ‘nervous’ European leaders

Michel Barnier is being quizzed by EU leaders over concerns that the negotiator is planning to concede too much to the UK in the final days of Brexit negotiations.

French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday said that his country “will not accept an agreement that does not respect our long-term interests”, as a French diplomat told the Financial Times that the EU27 are becoming “nervous” over the terms of the potential trade deal.

EU leaders were pushing Barnier “to include them before agreeing to anything”, the unnamed diplomat said, as negotiators continued to wrangle over fishing rights and competition conditions for business.

Another EU diplomat told The Guardian that while the bloc has faith in Barnier’s abilities as a negotiator, anxiety was sparked last week when he told ambassadors of his “flexibility” over some aspects of customs and border controls.

Barnier is currently in London but is briefing Brussels via video link this morning. He “will be asked to relay the message to the Commission that the member states would like to have prior scrutiny of a possible agreement before closing it”, the insider said, adding: “Being in the dark makes people nervous.”

Today’s meeting was called after the EU was urged by key member states to “hold firm to their red lines in the endgame of trade negotiations”, The Telegraph reports. 

Another unnamed EU diplomat told the paper that the European Commission received a “serious warning” from Macron that concessions on key negotiating lines “risked dividing member states”.

Speaking at a press conference in Paris yesterday alongside Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, Macron said that their two countries were “among the most impacted” by Brexit.

The French leader added: “We will be particularly vigilant about the conditions of fair competition, today and for the long term, and the question of fish.”

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