Mr Barnier was runderstood to be preparing a climbdown that hands British fishermen a boost of up to 18 percent of catch quotas in our waters. But British officials laughed off the plan, insisting Brussels would have to move further before an agreement is possible. A UK source close to the talks told Express.co.uk: “It’s derisory, there’s nothing more to say about it.”
Under the plan, British fishermen would see an increase of their catch quotas between 15 and 18 percent for certain species.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “Our negotiating principle remains that we will become an independent coastal state and we will retain control of our fisheries.”
He added: “The talks will resume over the weekend on a face to face basis. We remain committed to seeking a free-trade agreement but that must fully respect UK sovereignty.
“At this late stage, a deal is still possible and we are working to achieve one. We’ll continue to negotiate over the weekend to that end.”
The offer has been on the table for at least three weeks, and has been unable to provide a breakthrough.
EU sources insisted it would not feature in any “new proposals” put forward by Mr Barnier during the weekend wrangling over the Brexit trade deal.
One insider said both sides’ positions are still “nautical miles” apart in the row over access to British waters after the end of the year.
Brussels’ negotiator Mr Barnier warned the dispute has blocked any progress being made in recent months.
The Frenchman told colleagues he was no longer able to confirm whether a deal is possible or not.
He claimed it would be “impossible” to make a significant unless Downing Street is prepared to cave in to the bloc’s demands.
An EU diplomat said: “The gaps on level playing field, governance and fisheries remain large. Michel Barnier wasn’t able to say at this stage whether a deal would be possible.
“Without London taking the necessary decisions quickly, reaching a deal will be all but impossible. Time is running out quickly. There are only a few days left for further negotiations.”
Panicked EU states ordered Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen immediately trigger the bloc’s emergency plans for a no-deal Brexit.
The insider added: “A deal cannot be guaranteed at this stage and a no-deal outcome cannot be excluded. The EU needs to prepare diligently for all possible outcomes.”
But France was urging the EU to stand firm and not be “intimidated” by Britain with the Brexit trade talks set to go down to the wire.
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Europe minister Clement Beaune said: “The British need an agreement more than we do. Europeans must be convinced of this, and convinced of their strength in these negotiations.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson questioned whether the EU really wants to secure a deal, insisting there is already a possible agreement on the table.
He told reporters: “The likelihood of a deal is very much determined by our friends and partners in the EU.
“There is a deal to be done if they want to do it, which I think would benefit people on both sides of the Channel.”
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And his chief negotiator Lord Frost insisted he wouldn’t sign up to an agreement that doesn’t hand Britain back control of its borders, laws and waters.
He said: “Some people are asking me why we are still talking. My answer is that it’s my job to do my utmost to see if the conditions for a deal exist. It is late, but a deal is still possible, and I will continue to talk until it’s clear that it isn’t.
“But for a deal to be possible it must fully respect UK sovereignty. That is not just a word – it has practical consequences.”