The European Union’s chief negotiator said he is ready to be “creative” in order to meet Boris Johnson’s red lines. But he will urge the Prime Minister to drop his “unacceptable approach” to the talks when the two sides meet in London today. In evidence published by the House of Lords yesterday, Mr Barnier said: “If there is to be further progress on the substance it has to come from the UK.
“The coming weeks will be decisive in setting the direction of this agreement.
“We are working for a deal, but we do not need to speed things up. We are ready for the hypothesis of no deal.”
In a boost for British negotiators, the Frenchman hinted he could drop his demands for the European Court of Justice to play a role in policing the future relationship.
“I do not imagine that it would not be possible to find some creative solution with these issues,” he told members of the Lord’s EU Committee.
Michel Barnier says Boris Johnson must be more flexible in Brexit talks
Michel Barnier is the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator
“We are open to being creative so that we keep various sides happy.”
Mr Barnier also signalled a willingness to compromise on the bloc’s hardline demand for continued access to Britain’s fishing waters.
The Brussels bureaucrat said the two sides could agree to use “scientific advice” to establish new quota shares, a key demand by Downing Street.
But he said while annual talks over access to UK waters would be possible under the new system, it would not be viable to negotiate a totally new fisheries deal every year.
David Frost, the UK negotiator, met Mr Barnier in Brussels last week
“You can discuss fishing stocks regularly every year in the light of the scientific advice, so that we can protect resources and biodiversity, but negotiating access to waters and the fish in those waters every year would be impossible for 100-odd species,” Mr Barnier said.
He also revealed he had offered Downing Street a “flextension” of the transition period but this was rejected by the Prime Minister.
Mr Johnson’s lead negotiator with the bloc, David Frost, will lead a small team of experts as they hope to establish how to end the impasse over issues such as the level-playing field and future access to Britain’s fishing waters.
David Frost and Michel Barnier will hold weekly talks until August
Mr Johnson’s spokesman added: “David has been very clear there remain significant differences in areas such as what the EU calls the level-playing field.
“We continue to make the point that we are seeking a free-trade agreement based on precedent and of the kind which the EU has agreed with other friendly countries like Canada.
“We are not looking for anything special, bespoke or unique.
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“We’ve also been consistently clear that we can’t agree to a set of novel and unbalanced proposals that would bind the UK to EU law or standards or impose control over our domestic legal regimes.”
A European Commission spokesman said last night: “This is not a round of negotiations. The next round is the week of July 20 in London.
“What we have this week is a number of technical-level meetings between experts in what are called specialised sessions. We have meetings starting tomorrow and running until Thursday.”