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The European Union’s chief negotiator has drawn up a multi-billion pound hit list to ramp up pressure on Lord Frost as wrangling over the trade and security deal reaches a crunch point. The Frenchman has told close allies of a plan to secure concessions in the bitter row over access to British fishing grounds. Details of the manoeuvres emerged today as the Brexit talks resumed in London ahead of an imminent mid-November deadline.
According to Brussels sources, Mr Barnier will use the promise of lucrative access to the EU’s market for key UK manufacturing sectors to secure greater access to the UK’s coastal waters for the bloc’s fishermen.
Ahead of the talks, he briefed a private meeting that import taxes on British-made lorries alone would cost the UK economy more than £900million a year.
One insider revealed Mr Barnier has drawn up a dossier of the profits made by British companies if the UK is offered a zero-tariff, zero-quota trade deal by the bloc.
“We have worked out what that would generate in terms of profits for British companies,” he told allies.
The Brussels bureaucrat explained to colleagues he would threaten to block access to the EU for British hauliers and airlines if European fishermen are not granted “fair access to British waters”, one person familiar with the discussions said.
According to sources, Mr Barnier told the meeting: “I’m pitting one against the other. European access to British waters and British access to the single market.”
Mr Barnier has recently found himself under increasing pressure from EU governments, led by France’s Emmanuel Macron, to stick with the bloc’s intransigent fishing demands.
EU hardliners want to maintain the same level of access for European boats to Britain’s coastal waters after Brexit.
But Mr Barnier has urged capitals to give him the flexibility in order to find a “compromise” position acceptable to Downing Street.
Last week he said providing the UK’s fleets with a boost to their catch quotas was “key to reaching an agreement”.
Downing Street has insisted it will not back down in the row over future access to the UK’s waters.
A Government spokesman said: “Unfortunately we haven’t achieved as much as we’d hoped so far during this intensive process. We will only be able to make progress if the EU accepts the reality that the UK will have the right to control access to its waters at the end of this year.
“The EU also does not seem to have realised the scale of change in fishing rights they face if there is no agreement.”
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Environment Secretary George Eustice today hinted at a possible compromise if Brussels agrees to recognise the UK’s independent coastal status.
He said Downing Street was “not giving ground” on reclaiming control of Britain’s fishing grounds but suggested EU fleets could be granted access on a multi-annual basis.
Mr Eustice told Sky News: “On fisheries, we’ve always been open to doing a sensible approach looking particularly at agreements that might span a couple, three years for instance.
“We’re going to be sensible in how we approach this but making sure that we have control of our own waters again and controlled access to our waters has always been a red line for us in these negotiations.”
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He insisted reclaiming coastal sovereignty was a “point of international law rather than a matter of negotiations”.
And added the UK and EU would continue talking to decide upon future fishing opportunities in their waters.
“That is a discussion that will happen annual but it is the partnership agreement that sets the ground rules,” he said.
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