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France has clubbed together with five other EU states to warn Michel Barnier, the bloc’s lead Brexit negotiator, not to give too many concessions to the UK in an effort to secure a trade deal. Emmanuel Macron is particularly concerned over future fishing arrangements and has instructed EU negotiators to stand firm.
France has been joined by Spain, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark who all have large stakes in Britain’s fishing waters.
The six countries want the EU to keep its existing access to UK fishing waters, but Britain is determined to limit access to its sovereign waters.
The matter has been a key stumbling block in the negotiations over the past few months.
During a meeting between European ambassadors, MEPs and the Brussels negotiators, France warned the team against making too many concessions just because time was running out.
France was backed by the other five EU nations, who suggested they could bloc the deal from passing if they do not agree with the terms of the deal.
The group have also suggested the EU should be prepared to walk away from the negotiations and trigger a no deal Brexit unless the UK Government starts to back down on its red lines.
They proposed giving the UK just 48 hours to make concessions, or the EU should declare the negotiations have failed and plough on without a deal in place.
But Mr Barnier sought to reassure member states he was still safeguarding the EU’s interests.
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An EU diplomat said: “As we are entering the endgame of Brexit negotiations, some member states are becoming a bit jittery.
“So this was mostly an exercise to calm nerves in Paris and elsewhere, and to reassure member states that Team Barnier will continue to defend core EU interests.”
During the talks, the French envoy warned Mr Barnier several EU leaders could veto the deal.
Once a deal is reached between the UK and Brussels, both Parliament’s will need to sign off on the deal.
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For the EU, this means all European leaders must approve the agreement unanimously for it to pass into law.
As a result, it is crucial that Mr Barnier keeps all members states on board.
Earlier today a senior EU diplomat close to the talks said a veto was unexpected.
This is because Mr Barnier is unlikely to sign off on a deal if he thought it wouldn’t be backed by EU states.
Negotiators are believed to be on the brink of securing a trade deal.
Allegra Stratton, the new Downing Street press secretary, has said Boris Johnson is “optimistic” that an agreement can be reached.
She added: “But he has always said that he is confident and comfortable that we would be OK without a deal.”
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