The Brussels diplomat has told Lord Frost he will not travel to the capital for another “Groundhog Day” round of talks on post-Brexit fishing rights and common standards, according to EU sources. He wants guarantees that his UK counterpart is prepared to budge before committing to further weekend of negotiations. Mr Barnier was said to have issued the ultimatum after growing frustrated with the lack of progress over the main sticking points.
In online talks, he said his team would only travel to London if they believed a deal was possible by next week.
Both sides were forced to hold negotiations via video link after a coronavirus outbreak in the EU’s team.
But the bloc’s negotiators were expected to return to the Capital to resume face-to-face meetings after a period of self-isolation.
It was said Mr Barnier had grown frustrated after a number of “pointless” discussions in which his UK counterpart had refused to agree to the bloc’s demands.
Michel Barnier has threatened to call off London Brexit talks unless UK budges on fisheries
Michel Barnier is the EU's chief Brexit negotiator
An EU source said: “The British are frankly laughing at us, time is very short. If nothing moves in London we risk going towards no deal.”
Another insider added the Brussels diplomat had made “no decision” on whether to resume in-person wrangling after talks were halted because of a coronavirus scare.
His warning came as European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the wrangling over the EU-UK future relationship could still end in failure.
The European Commission chief said an agreement was far from certain because of the disputes over access to Britain’s coastal waters and common standards, including state aid.
Lord Frost and Michel Barnier are due to resume trade talks in London later this week
Britain is still refusing to sign up to follow the bloc’s evolving standards and offer European fishermen sufficient guarantees for opportunities, she said.
Mrs von der Leyen said: “These are decisive days for our negotiations with the United Kingdom. But, frankly I cannot tell you today if, in the end, there will be a deal.
“However, there's still three issues that can make the difference between a deal and no deal.
“We will do all in our power to reach an agreement, we're ready to be creative.”
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Michel Barnier is a former French fisheries minister
She insisted the EU would have to support a “compromise” at next month’s summit of leaders if they are to get the agreement over the line.
“It is when we managed to join forces that we Europeans can achieve the most. It is when we negotiate hard, and then stick to the compromise found that we move forward fast,” she said.
French President Emmanuel Macron is still holding out for the near-parity access to Britain’s fishing waters.
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His hardline stance risks scuppering chances of a Brexit compromise being reached in the coming days.
French MEP Nathalie Loiseau said: “Much progress has been made. But there are still important disagreements, and the UK must move on them.
“In the same way that we are preparing for reciprocal access to our markets, the UK must accept reciprocal access to our waters for our fishermen.”