Britain is set to reject a European offer to return around one-sixth of the value of fish stocks caught by EU boats as part of a Brexit trade deal, according to reports.
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier was said to be preparing the offer ahead of his arrival in London for a weekend of talks with his British opposite number David Frost.
Substantial differences remain between the two sides in multiple areas, with five weeks to go until the New Year when a new trade deal must take effect.
The Irish national broadcaster RTE reported that Barnier would propose that between 15% and 18% of the fish quota caught by EU fleets in British waters “would be restored to the UK under a free trade agreement”.
The proposal is understood to have been discussed at a meeting on Friday between Barnier and fisheries ministers from several EU member states with shorelines close to the UK, including Belgium, France, Ireland and the Netherlands.
Denmark, Germany and Spain were also reported to be represented.
But the influential UK tabloid The Sun suggested the offer amounted to an EU demand for “basically 80 per cent of the access they now have to UK waters”.
“Needless to say it’s a no from the UK,” Harry Cole, the newspaper’s political editor, tweeted on Friday.
Britain wants to annually renegotiate the quotas of fish that foreign vessels can catch in UK waters.
The EU has a similar arrangement in place with Norway, another North Sea country that is not a member state.
Frost said ahead of his weekend of talks with Barnier that a deal was still possible, but there are fears that even if a deal is agreed there will not be enough time before the New Year for all 27 EU member states and the European parliament to approve it.
One source close to the talks told Euronews on Friday that a political intervention from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was needed to break the deadlock.