MICHEL Barnier is ready to water down his red lines – but can only take the plunge if the PM shows willingness to compromise.
The EU’s chief negotiator is “preparing the ground” to go beyond his hardline mandate, according to insiders.
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He will offer the PM a major olive branch by accepting euro judges won’t play any role in the trade deal.
Mr Barnier is also ready to soften his stance on fishing and the extent to which the UK will have to match European standards.
But diplomats in Brussels warned our negotiator David Frost time is running out for him to accept the offer.
One said: “The UK can’t wait too long to compromise.
“Barnier is now preparing our side for a different outcome.
“I don’t think Johnson has prepared his.”
A second added: “Frost is a smart operator but he’s over-asking.
“So far his demands are too far out for the EU to engage with.”
No 10 is pressing hard to get the “outline” of a deal, which will set out the “political trade-offs”, in place by the end of this month.
Brussels is encouraged by the PM’s commitment to speeding up the talks but has warned they’re a “waste of time” unless he will budge too.
An EU source said: “The Brits have now had hints on governance, level playing field, and on fish that the EU is ready to move.
“The message is clear. Now it’s on the other side to respond.
“It’s difficult to move if one party is holding out on the big issues as bargaining chips.”
Officials and diplomats in Brussels believe the PM is committed to getting a deal because he doesn’t want to be seen as a failure or incompetent.
Fishing access is set to be based on zonal attachment – a key UK demand that will give our boats a much greater catch share.
Under the system quotas are calculated by tracking where species live now, rather than on patterns drawn up in the 1970s still used by the EU.
In return Brussels wants to build in the historic rights of its trawlers and ensure they can’t be shut out of our waters at minimal notice.
Environment Secretary George Eustice has hinted at a compromise, saying the UK could drop its insistence on annual negotiations for some fish stocks.
EU sources are also increasingly optimistic that a middle ground can be found on their so-called level playing field demands.
They believe an agreement on non-regression, under which neither side would reduce environment or labour laws below the EU minimum, is doable.
But state aid remains a major sticking point, with European capitals unnerved by the PM’s big spending attitude.
The PM yesterday moved to calm nerves amongst Tory backbenchers over reports the UK’s border won’t be ready for a clean break next year.
They expressed fears in the ERG’s WhatsApp group that the fiasco will mean Britain has to stay in the bloc’s tariffs regime.
But Mr Johnson personally dropped in on the late night chat, insisting: “Not on your nelly!”
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