The European Union is considering a fresh proposal on fishing rights from the U.K. as Prime Minister Boris Johnson aims to secure an 11th-hour trade deal. Both parties had signaled over the weekend that they could make no further compromises, but on Monday the U.K. offered to give further ground if the EU backed down in other areas, according to people familiar with the negotiations.
Michel Barnier, the bloc’s chief negotiator, is scheduled to brief ambassadors from the 27 member states at about 4 p.m. in Brussels on Tuesday.
The U.K. has demanded the EU accept a five-year transition to the new arrangement rather than seven, the people said. The EU had initially called for 10 years to adjust and the U.K. had proposed three.
“There have been successive proposals from the U.K., sometimes on fishing, that don’t respond to European priorities and demands,” French Europe Minister Clement Beaune told reporters in Paris. “Difficulties remain, in the fishing sector — but not only, so it would be a error of judgment and unacceptable stigmatization to say that a few countries or a few sectors are blocking.”
The British see control of their fishing waters, previously under the jurisdiction of the EU, as a key element of the sovereignty that it is regaining with Brexit. For its part, the European side doesn’t want to give access to its single market without maintaining fishing rights in return.
Speaking at a press conference in London, Johnson said he spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday, but discussed the coronavirus crisis rather than Brexit.
Earlier in the day, the U.K. government reiterated that it would not seek to extend the post-Brexit transition period beyond Dec. 31.