EU’s Barnier Denies a Deal on Fisheries Is Near: Brexit Update

Photographer: John Thys/AFP/Getty Images

Michel Barnier, the European Union’s chief negotiator, denied that the U.K. and EU are nearing a breakthrough over their longstanding disagreement over fishing, according to officials with knowledge of his comments.

At a briefing in Brussels on Monday, Barnier told envoys from the bloc’s 27 member states that it’s up to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to make the next move as negotiators seek to break the deadlock over a post-Brexit trade deal.

Earlier, people familiar with the situation had said a compromise on access to U.K. fishing waters was starting to emerge, leaving the level competitive playing field as the main remaining and stubborn issue. Others disputed that interpretation.

One diplomat on Monday that the sides are getting closer on fish but they are still some way from a breakthrough. Agreeing on a level playing field for businesses will be the toughest issue, that diplomat said.

Read more: Brexit Talks Resume as Officials Seek to Hammer Out Solution

Key Developments:

  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson is ready to abandon negotiations, according to the Sun
  • The pound extended its losses, dropping 0.7% to $1.3346.
  • Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will talk later this evening.

From Bloomberg Opinion: No-Deal Brexit Would Inflict Pain on Europe, Too: Lionel Laurent

Johnson Ready to Walk Out, Sun Says (9:07 a.m.)

Johnson is ready to walk away from the negotiations within hours unless the EU backs down from its “outrageous” demands, the Sun reported, citing an unidentified source close to the British prime minister. He could make an address to the country as soon as Tuesday evening, the newspaper said.

Gove to Meet with Sefcovic (9 a.m.)

U.K. Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove will meet with European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic in Brussels on Monday. They are both co-chairs of the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee, which oversees the implementation of the Brexit divorce deal — including the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Barnier Tells Diplomats No Breakthrough on Fish (8:30 a.m.)

The EU’s chief negotiator denied that the U.K. and EU are nearing a deal on fisheries, according to a diplomat with knowledge of the briefing.

U.K. Says Law-breaking Clauses to be Put Back in Bill (8:20 a.m.)

Controversial clauses that break the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement struck a year ago by the EU and U.K. will be put back in the bill, James Cleverly, a U.K. Foreign Office Minister said.

The Internal Market Bill is due to return on Monday to the House of Commons after the upper chamber, the Lords, stripped out the clauses. But in a Sky interview on Monday, Cleverly likened them to an “insurance policy.”

“The Internal Market bill contains really important clauses that protect the integrity of the U.K.: they will be put back in, because they matter,” he said. “Like all insurance policies, you would prefer to not have to use it.”

Barnier Pessimistic About Deal (8:18 a.m.)

Barnier was rather pessimistic about the prospects of a deal, said a senior EU diplomat present at this morning’s briefing.

The EU’s chief negotiator told envoys that divergences over the three well-known issues remain and that the ball is in Boris Johnson’s court to move, according to the diplomat.

Disagreements over the playing field for businesses, fisheries, and the governance of any agreement have dogged the talks since they started in March.

Barnier Tells Ambassadors Talks Are Continuing (8:00 a.m.)

The EU’s chief negotiator told diplomats that there is still no deal with the U.K. and that talks will go on, according to an official with knowledge of the conversation.

Barnier Arrives to Brief Diplomats (7:30 a.m.)

Michel Barnier arrived at the EU council to brief ambassadors after talks finished at midnight in Brussels on Sunday. Other than a brief “Good morning,” he didn’t speak to reporters outside.

Talks Are on a “Knife Edge” (Earlier)

With the negotiations moving only slowly, one EU official warned that expectations that an agreement will be reached within 24 hours are low. The EU has said that a summit of its 27 leaders that begins on Thursday now marks the effective deadline for a Brexit deal.

“Things are on a knife edge and it’s serious. My gut instinct is it’s 50-50,” Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said in an interview with broadcaster RTE on Sunday. “I don’t think one can be overly optimistic about a resolution emerging.”

— With assistance by Alex Morales, and Greg Ritchie

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