(Bloomberg) – Britain and the European Union are giving negotiations on a post-Brexit trade deal “a final boost,” EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said as officials from both sides said were talking about a possible deal on Wednesday.
Barnier also told ambassadors meeting in Brussels that progress had been made in his talks with the UK and that a deal could be signed before Christmas if the British were ready to compromise on fishing rights, according to reports. diplomats informed of discussions.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen have spoken by phone in recent days with the ultimate goal of resolving their disagreement over fishing rights, the main obstacle remaining to a broader trade deal.
Earlier in the week, the UK put forward a proposal that would see the value of fish caught by EU boats in UK waters drop by 30%, significantly less than the 60% it demanded during the week last. The two sides are also discussing what kind of retaliation would be allowed if one party breaks the deal.
The bloc, however, refused to agree to a cut of more than 25%, saying even that was difficult for countries like France and Denmark to accept, according to officials familiar with the talks. Barnier told the ambassadors his team is ready to continue negotiating after the UK’s transition period expires on December 31 if that is what is needed to secure a deal.
This is not as straightforward as the hard numbers, however, which is why, as the two sides continue to talk, a compromise is not out of the question.
Along with the percentage value of the catch, the two sides argue over how long fishermen will have to adapt to the rules. The UK has asked the EU to agree to a five-year transition period after previously suggesting three years. The block had originally called for 10 years, and has now offered seven.
The EU wants to be able to impose tariffs on the UK if, in the future, the government limits access to its waters. In its latest compromise offer, the UK said it would accept tariffs on fisheries but not in other areas, such as energy, as demanded by the bloc.
Arriving at the meeting at the commission’s headquarters, Barnier told reporters the talks came at a “crucial time.”
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