Brussels left shocked by Britain’s new hardline approach to trade talks

British negotiators finally believe they have Brussels on the back foot with their uncompromising attitude in the talks about a future trade deal.

David Frost’s army of officials refused to budge last week after Michel Barnier demanded for the current access to Britain’s fishing waters is maintained as the price for the future relationship pact. The Brussels bureaucrat even called for the UK’s departure from the bloc’s single market to be delayed after admitting negotiations had been “disappointing”.

Despite the deadlocked talks, Boris Johnson will be advised that his negotiators remained resolute in their promise to deliver on his Conservative manifesto pledge to free Britain from EU rules and regulations.

Sources said EU officials were “a bit worried” by their British counterparts during the recent week-long talks carried out over video conferences.

It is believed the UK’s new uncompromising stance and a refusal to simply accept the EU’s demands has shocked some of Mr Barnier’s deputies.

The tactics even drove Mr Barnier to accuse the British of “slowing down” the negotiations and his deputies claimed they were even seeking to end the talks without an agreement.

But Downing Street revealed the deadlocked talks are because the EU will not drop its demands for unchanged fishing rights in Britain’s waters.

The Prime Minister will be urged to reach out to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to encourage her to soften the bloc’s negotiating position.

British negotiators are also hoping their counterparts to agree to intensify the trade talks.

The two sides are not due to hold more week-long, virtual talks again until May and June.

Downing Street wants Brussels to break standard convention and “short circuit” the usual negotiating process in order to match its ambitious timetable.

Ministers could even publish a draft fisheries text within weeks to hammer home the point to the bloc’s leaders.

Senior EU officials have already conceded they will be forced to revise the mandate given to them by member states in order to soften their red lines.

One source said: “Over time we must decide whether we should move or not.”

However, Mr Barnier is still under orders to maintain the same level of access for European trawlermen to Britain’s waters as the price for any trade deal.

Access is a deal-breaker for at least nine EU countries, including France, Belgium, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands.

Downing Street has said ministers must reclaim full control of the country’s fishing rights, with future terms decided during annual negotiations with Brussels. 

Mr Barnier has urged the UK to make its fisheries plan public so he can open negotiations with EU member states over his mandate.

The Frenchman said: “There will be no trade agreement without an agreement on fisheries. For the moment, the UK has understood our message.

“I think they will come back with proposals and we’re willing to discuss those with member states and those involved in the fishing industry.”

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