Barnier rings EU alarm bell on UK fishing masterplan – Spain and Netherlands face disaster

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The Brussels diplomat said this would hit Dutch and Spanish firms that own fishing boats – known as flag ships – in the UK the hardest. In a series of private Brussels briefings yesterday, he described this as one of the key sticking points to finding a deal on post-Brexit fishing rights. Mr Barnier told MEPs that UK Brexit envoy Lord Frost had tabled demands surmounting to the “expropriation” of foreign-owned fishing boats.

According to a source familiar with the meeting, he said: “There are other conditions that they wanted to impose that are very difficult for those two countries.”

Britain is said to be seeking ownership rules for boats that mean the majority stakeholder must be domestic.

The rows over a post-Brexit fishing agreement and the so-called “level playing field” are holding up progress in the EU-UK trade talks.

Mr Barnier believes an overall deal could be struck this week if both sides can reach an agreement on fisheries.

But Downing Street officials have hit back against a wave of positive briefings emerging out of Brussels.

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Hopes of a deal had been rising in recent days after the Prime Minister and Ms von der Leyen scrapped a make-or-break deadline set for last Sunday to conclude the talks.

But tensions were rising again yesterday after the EU demanded the power to punish the UK with restrictions on British firms, including car manufacturers, in retaliation for any move to block European fishing fleets from UK coastal waters.

Mr Barnier briefing EU ambassadors that some “limited progress” had been made over the weekend.

A diplomatic source said: “No one asked anything about no-deal and that was informed by the tone of Mr Barnier’s briefing.

“He was a little less gloomy than I was expecting.

“If both sides can come out of their trenches on fish, Barnier said there could be a deal this week.”

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Mr Barnier also told ambassadors the Prime Minister had made concessions over regulatory standards and now needed to “build the architecture” on the issue.

A senior Government source accused the EU of briefing “inaccurate” accounts of the latest developments.

The source said: “Talks remain difficult and we have not made significant progress in recent days, despite efforts by the UK to bring energy and ideas to the process.

“Like any sovereign country, we must have the right to take our own decisions and to choose regulations that suit the UK.

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“We can not sign up to dynamic alignment through the back door. The UK cannot be locked into the EU’s regulatory orbit.

“We have always been absolutely clear that the UK will have control over access to our waters and a better deal for UK fishing communities. There is simply no truth in the idea that we have backtracked.

“The inaccurate briefings from the EU side in recent days have made a difficult discussion even more challenging in the short time left.”

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