Barnier admits EU MUST find compromise after Boris ultimatum ‘agreement within reach’

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The Brussels diplomat said an agreement was still possible but would also require the UK to offer a number of concessions on future fishing opportunities and state subsidies controls. Speaking at the European Parliament in Brussels, Mr Barnier warned time is running short and urged UK counterpart Lord Frost to return to the negotiating table. The Frenchman said: “Despite the difficulties we’ve faced, an agreement is within reach if both sides are willing to work constructively, if both sides are willing to compromise and if we are able to progress, on the basis of legal texts, and if we’re ready over the next few days to resolve the trickier subjects, because time is of the essence.

“That’s why, along with our British counterparts, we must endeavour to find solutions to the most difficult areas.”

Mr Barnier’s conciliatory message came after being warned by Lord Frost the EU must make a “fundamental change of approach” and show willingness to compromise before trade talks can resume.

He had hoped to travel to London to salvage up the wrangling over a free-trade agreemeent after Boris Johnson last Friday staged a walkout because EU leaders refused to intensify the talks. 

“We’re willing to do intense work to intensify the talks, day and night,” Mr Barnier added.

The eurocrat claimed the EU and UK are closing in on a number of agreements, including on law enforcment and transport pacts.

But he said there are still differences between the two sides on trade in goods, state aid controls and future access to Britain’s fishing grounds.

Mr Barnier insisted there would not be a trade deal unless both sides can reach an agreement that allows European boats to operate in Britain’s coastal waters.

But he insisted the bloc would have to ensure British trawlermen after also handed “fair” opportunities as part of the pact.

He said: “There will not be a trade deal without a fair solution for fishermen on both sides and we will insist on this right up until the very end.

“There needs to be mutual access to waters, and there needs to be a fair distribution of quotas for fishermen on both sides.”

The UK’s negotiator, Lord Frost, held talks with Mr Barnier yesterday but Downing Street said there was still no breakthrough.

The pair have agreed to remain in close contact, according to an EU official.

Lord Frost insisted there was still no basis for trade talks unless the EU showed a willingness to compromise in order to broker a deal.

Mr Barnier insisted the EU wants to find a “balanced compromise”.

He told MEPs: “We want a deal that will be mutually beneficial to both parties in respect of the autonomy and sovereignty on both sides, a deal reflecting a balanced compromise.” 

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