Phil Hogan, the EU’s trade commissioner, said member states could be asked to tweak Michel Barnier’s mandate in order to break the impasse. He said the bloc was “ready to move” away from some of its hardline stances but only if Downing Street considers meeting them in the middle. Negotiations are currently deadlocked with insiders claiming there are still “fundamental” differences between the two sides’ plans to overcome.
Brussels sources have suggested Mr Barnier is ready to water down the bloc’s demands for unchanged access to Britain’s fishing waters after the transition period ends in December.
But influential ministers from the “group of eight” EU fishing nations urged the Frenchman to stick to guidelines handed to him by European capitals.
Appearing before the European Parliament’s trade committee, Mr Hogan suggested member states could be asked once again to review their red lines in order to strike a deal with Britain.
He told MEPs: “I expect all member states will have to adjudicate on the deal. Certainly there will have to be an opportunity for member states to adjudicate on the mandate that has been granted and the outcome of the negotiations if it meets that mandate.”
EU trade chief Phil Hogan suggested the bloc could compromise in post-Brexit trade offer
Phil Hogan is the EU’s trade commissioner
The Irishman added ultimately British negotiators would also have to reconsider their own positions.
He said: “I have to say that we’re not making much progress at the moment, so perhaps the UK have come to the conclusion that there’s not going to be a deal. I hope not because we want a deal but speed is of the essence because time is short.
“Next round of negotiations next week, we hope we’ll see a bigger effort than we’ve seen to date from the UK side to move on certain issues because we stand ready to move on ours, to move towards some of the solutions required on many issues of concern to both sides.
“So we have a spirit of in the EU to try and do a deal, but we’re not getting much traction from the UK negotiators to date and perhaps this is more strategy than substance. But we certainly need confidence building measures in the next round of negotiations next week.”
Michel Barnier is the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator
Meanwhile in a separate meeting, Mr Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, told senior MEPs that the bloc’s demand for a regulatory level-playing field and continued access to British waters remain the most “divisive issues”.
But the Frenchman insisted he was confident a fisheries agreement can be struck.
The Brussels bureaucrat also acknowledged that Boris Johnson would rather walk away from talks without a deal to secure full regulatory freedom, EU sources said.
David Frost, the Prime Minister’s lead negotiator, denied accusations that Downing Street doesn’t want a deal.
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David Frost, the UK’s negotiator, and Sir Tim Barrow, the UK’s ambassador to the EU, in Brussels
He said an agreement was “perfectly possible” if the EU drops its “unprecedented” regulatory alignment demands.
Mr Frost also rejected an EU offer to extend the transition period by two years.
He said: “The Government’s position is pretty clear.
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“We are not going to ask for an extension and if the EU asks for one we will not agree to one.
“I think that is part of the framework now and we are working to an end of year deadline.”
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove called on Brussels to budge from its hardline fishing stance to break the “stand-off”.