Barnier on brink: Rattled EU chief under pressure from member states – Boris ‘in control’
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Lee Rotherham, was speaking after details emerged today about a bold new offer from Boris Johnson aimed at breaking the deadlock over the dispute concerning fisheries, which has overshadowed trade talks so far. And Mr Rotherham – who recently suggested EU leaders might be ready to sideline Mr Barnier in favour of bilateral talks – suggested the move was motivated by a willingness on the part of Mr Johnson to find a workable solution irrespective of the EU chief negotiator’s input.
Mr Rotherham, who is known as Dr Brexit and who was the Director of Special Projects at Vote Leave, said: “My sense is that there has been a shift in recent days over how the EU is treating all this.
“Boris Johnson’s October 15 deadline was always very sensible.
“It has forced the EU to take their loaded gun of the December 31 deadline off the table.
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“It has put him in control of the timetable.”
Mr Rotherham added: “I think he and David Frost have got under their skin, especially Barnier, who is increasingly looking rattled.”
Referring to Mr Barnier’s recent use of social media, he explained: “You can tell that with his use of language and his handling of Twitter.
“He never used to respond like that before.
“I also think other member states may have spoken to the Commission about the fixation with fishing.
“Let’s just say there won’t be too many politicians in Hungary, or Luxembourg or the Czech Republic, for example, worrying about North Sea fish.
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“So they could be forgiven for wondering why this should be such a big treaty stumbling block for them.”
Taking back control over British waters is a key tenet of Brexit – but European fishermen, particularly French vessels – are implacably opposed to anything which would reduce their access to UK waters.
British negotiators are therefore proposing a three-year transition period, giving EU ships ample opportunity to get used to the new status quo.
In accordance with the plan, access to foreign ships would be “phased down” in order to allow coastal communities to adapt.
Mr Rotherham added: “By being so reasonable the UK is doing the EU a favour and it removes any reason for EU fishermen to object.
“Boris Johnson is being extremely fair minded with this three-year deadline and it shows both sides recognise they need to make practical accommodations for the other.
“There now needs to be some give and take on the EU side – for example, with fishing around Jersey and Guernsey to make easier for them to get their fish into France without facing red tape.
“But that shouldn’t be too much of a problem because the ports cover similar fishing grounds.
“What this proposal does is point the way for lots of other areas of possible agreements, which will avoid any kind of hard edge scenario.”
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