Michel Barnier is to blame if Boris Johnson’s October 15 no deal Brexit deadline is missed on Thursday, UK government sources have claimed.
British sources lashed out after the chief negotiator told Europe ministers Britain had not made enough progress to get the trade deal done by the EU summit in two days’ time.
They accused Mr Barnier of being unable to marshall the 27 member states behind the compromises necessary to get a trade deal done. EU diplomats said that Mr Barnier had their’ “full support”.
Mr Barnier also badly miscalculated by refusing to negotiate on any other issues except the level playing field, fishing and enforcement of the deal, UK sources alleged.
“The EU have been using the old playbook in which they thought running down the clock would work against the UK,” a government source said.
“But in fact all these tactics have achieved is to get us to the middle of October with lots of work that could have been done left undone.”
UK sources claimed that with more “realism” from the EU and a significant move on fisheries “we could still get there”.
“This is all the more frustrating because it is clear that we have come a long way since the beginning of the year,” the source said.
“Time is now extraordinarily short. We need the EU to urgently up the pace and inject some creativity.”
“The EU will continue to work for a fair deal in the coming days and weeks,” Michel Barnier tweeted.
He said there was a “strong EU unity” at a meeting of Europe ministers in Luxembourg before the summit in Brussels. He made clear he expects negotiations to continue beyond Mr Johnson’s deadline until the end of the month.
“There is some movement here and there, but it is not sufficient by far and no tunnel in sight. Level playing field, fishery and enforcement measures remain the key controversial issues,” an EU diplomat said. The “tunnel” is Brussels jargon for secret intense talks to clinch a deal.
David Frost, the UK’s negotiator, will tell Boris Johnson on Wednesday if the Prime Minister’s demand that a trade agreement be “in sight” by the summit has been met.
The EU has set an end of October deadline for the trade agreement to be finished so it can be ratified before the end of the year and transition period.
British sources claim Mr Barnier told them the deadline was October 15 but that is strongly denied by Brussels sources. The European Commission refused to comment as negotiations were ongoing.
Germany’s Europe Minister Michael Roth warned no deal would be the “worst case scenario” for both sides but the EU was ready for it. He urged the UK to make “substantial progress” on fisheries, the level playing field guarantees and enforcement.
“Frankly speaking, we are at a critical stage of the negotiations. We are extremely under pressure, time is running out, that’s why we expect substantial progress by our friends in the UK in key areas,” he said.
Finnish minister of European affairs Tytti Tuppurainen said: “We do want to have an agreement with the UK, but not at any cost.”
France’s Europe Minister Clément Beaune urged the EU to stay united after warning on Monday that Paris would not allow French fishermen to be sacrificed to get a deal.
The chairman of the European Parliament’s fisheries committee said that French fishermen could sue Britain to have continued access to UK waters after Brexit.
Pierre Karleskind, from Brest, France, said, “They are claiming rights over something that were not theirs before entering the European Union. We are saying that we have historical rights.
He suggested “some” would be tempted “to go and sue the United Kingdom on this subject” in court.
He told French media, “I called Michel Barnier telling him that I do not understand that fishing can be sacrificed in the negotiations. He told me again that it is very clear in his mind that fishing is a priority. “