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Ahead of a fresh round of talks next week, Boris Johnson spokesman said the EU chief negotiator had misrepresented British proposals to try to divert attention from the bloc’s “unrealistic and unprecedented” demands. His outburst came in response to a speech by Mr Barnier earlier this week claiming the UK had to surrender sovereignty over the fish in British coastal waters to Brussels to have any hope of securing a trade agreement.
The Brussels diplomat also claimed Mr Johnson wanted the UK to quit the EU but keep many of the alleged benefits of membership.
In a briefing to Westminster journalists yesterday, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “Michel Barnier’s comments are a misleading representation of our proposals aimed at deflecting scrutiny from the EU’s own positions, which are unrealistic and unprecedented.
“For our part, we have been consistently clear that we are seeking a relationship that respects our sovereignty and has a free trade agreement at its core similar to those the EU has already agreed with like-minded countries.
“The EU have refused to engage with our proposals and the document which we’ve brought to the table, insisting that we must accept continuity with EU fisheries policy and disregarding the UK’s status as an independent coastal state.
“We need more realism from the EU on the scale of the change that results from our leaving the EU.”
Mr Johnson was seeking an agreement on fishing rights similar to the EU arrangements with Norway, which negotiates fishing quotas annually.
“We’ve been clear from the outside that once we leave the EU we will once again become an independent coastal state and it will be for us to determine who fishes in the UK’s waters.
“We have put forward proposals on fishing and we have provided a legal text.
“What we’re looking for is a relationship based on that which the EU has with Norway,” the spokesman said.
As the bitterness in the negotiations deepens, a senior German politician urged EU chiefs to prepare for European fishing vessels to be barred from UK waters.
Julia Klockner, the agriculture minister in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government, predicted that EU negotiators will continue to demand unchanged access to UK waters.
Ms Klockner said the industry could be propped up by a £4.5billion reserve fund for the “fallout of a no-deal Brexit”.
“We need to defend the interest of our fisheries industry and our processing industry in the EU,” she told the European Parliament’s fisheries committee.
She added: “Our fishermen and women need access rights to the UK’s territorial waters and need fishing opportunities.
“I certainly hope that a timely agreement is possible. But, of course, we need to prepare for all scenarios, including a no-deal scenario.”
The battle over access to Britain’s territorial waters is a “real sticking point in the conclusion of any agreement”, Ms Klockner told MEPs.
She insisted Germany, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, would not seek to water down the bloc’s demands during the trade talks.
“For fisheries, we want to ensure we have at least the status quo,” she told MEPs.
“There is a clear link between a general free-trade agreement and a specific fisheries agreement. We cannot separate the two, I think that’s crucial to bear in mind.”
The EU’s refusal to budge on fisheries has raised concerns of another stalemate when the two sides meet for more negotiations in London next week.
With chances of a no-deal Brexit increasing, the German government is preparing a “Plan B” for the bloc’s fishermen.
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