The latest Brexit talks between the UK and EU “did not go well”, according to reports, as British officials accused French President Emmanuel Macron of making fresh demands at the eleventh hour.
Macron is understood to have remained unwavering in his demand that France preserves a substantial portion of existing fishing rights in British waters once the UK leaves the bloc.
He has vowed to protect French fishermen, who are expected to lose a significant part of their quota from 1 January as part of any Brexit trade deal.
Hopes had been brewing within Westminster that a trade deal between the UK and EU was imminent, but Macron’s demands are said to have “destabilised” the roadmap.
French European affairs minister Clement Beaune stoked concerns that it may be too late to secure a deal, telling Europe 1 Radio this morning that France may veto any agreement that went against its interests.
“If a good agreement cannot be reached, we will oppose it. Each country has a veto right,” he said.
It comes after talks between Michel Barnier and British envoy David Frost last night took a “material change for the worse” and “put in jeopardy hopes” of a trade deal this weekend, according to Sky News.
The two sides also remain stalled over so-called “level playing field” demands, which look to carry forward current regulations on state standards and subsidies once Britain has left the bloc.
A senior British government official told the Financial Times: “At the eleventh hour, the EU is bringing new elements into the negotiation. A breakthrough is still possible in the next few days but that prospect is receding.”
Barnier’s negotiating team will remain in London over the next few days, while he will return to the continent.
Both sides have been locked in intense negotiations over the last few weeks in a bid to thrash out a last-minute trade deal before the end of the month, when Britain formally leaves the single market.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen last week warned that any trade deal would have to be drawn up over the next few days in order for the agreement to be ratified through parliament.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is understood to remain hopeful that a deal may be reached by Monday or Tuesday, ahead of a European Council meeting in Brussels on Thursday.