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The Brussels diplomat insisted he was leaving his role as head of the European Commission’s Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom at the end of the year. He is under pressure by EU capitals, led by France, to walk away from the talks unless Boris Johnson makes significant concessions in disputes over post-Brexit fishing rights and common standards. Mr Barnier was told he has until the end of the week to decide whether Britain had offered enough concessions, according to a diplomatic note seen by Express.co.uk.
The UK and EU teams were locked in late-night talks in London last night in a bid to get the Brexit trade deal over the line.
A mountain of takeaway pizzas were pictured being delivered to the Westminster conference centre being used to host the wrangling.
Chief negotiators Mr Barnier and Lord Frost are expected to meet later today to “take stock” after almost a week of intense negotiations.
If there is “positive noise”, the pair could decide to draft in Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen to decide on a final compromise.
Emmanuel Macron is trying to collapse negotiations to force the UK into giving the EU widespread access to British fishing waters.
The French President wants the EU to haul Britain back to the negotiating table in the new year without the “time pressure” of having a deal in place ready for the end of transition arrangements on December 31.
Mr Barnier has previously said he will leave his current role at the end of the year – whether there is a deal or not.
He yesterday briefed EU ambassadors on the latest state of play in the Brexit trade talks.
An EU diplomat said: “We are quickly approaching a make or break moment in the Brexit talks.
“It is still unclear whether negotiators can bridge the gaps on issues like level playing field, governance and fisheries.”
Hardline states, led by Mr Macron, are concerned Mr Barnier could compromise in order to clinch a last minute agreement and protect his legacy.
EU fishing states, such as France, Belgium and Denmark, fear they face being largely shut out of the UK’s coastal waters.
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British officials rubbished claims by Mr Barnier in a separate briefing to MEPs that Downing Street had watered down its fishing demands.
The Brussels diplomat said No10 was now ready to accept 60 percent of the value of the stocks in UK fishing grounds.
A senior UK source said: “It’s a non-starter.”
Despite the tensions, Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said: “There’s a good chance we can get a deal across the line in the next few days.”
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And in a dig at France’s no-deal Brexit push, he added: “Closing out a negotiation as complex as this one is never going to be easy.
“It’s going to be full of tension and stand offs, as both sides try to close out a deal that is acceptable.
“It’s a time to hold our nerve and trust Michel Barnier.”
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