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German Chancellor Angela Merkel is under mounting pressure from the country’s leading car industry to kill off Emmanuel Macron’s Brexit demands. There are growing concerns in the EU that the French President’s stubborn red lines when it comes to fisheries could jeopardise the entire EU trade deal with the UK. Earlier this week, EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier met with Ms Merkel, who last week signalled a flexibility from the EU on fisheries.
Mr Barnier is also due to meet Mr Macron, with EU sources claiming that the purpose of the meeting is to ease French reluctance to compromise.
Brexit expert Professor Anand Menon said that it was “barking mad” to think the German car industry will falter due to French fishermen, if French fisheries blocks a deal going through.
ITV host Daniel Hewitt said: “We have always said how united the EU side seemed to be, compared to the UK side. How much of a mess it was over here, compared to over there.
“Is that still the case? Are EU leaders still as united behind the scenes as they appear to be, or are there divisions over things like fisheries?
“I read over the weekend that EU officials feel Mr Macron wants too much on fishing.”
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Brexit expert Maddy Thimont Jack responded: “With the future trading relationship, it is broader, there are more issues, so there are more opportunities to have differences, or different priorities.
“There is concern about social security in eastern European states, and others more concerned about fish like France and Denmark.”
Professor Menon added: “They are united but they don’t agree.
“If you went into detail, and went to the 27 capitals, and asked what they wanted from a Brexit deal, they would all come up with different ideas.
“For the Germans, the notion that the trade in automobiles will be hampered because of French fishermen is nothing short of barking mad.”
However, he noted that there are other more pressing concerns for the EU leaders to fight over, including the budget and rule of law.
Despite EU pressure to back down, President Macron is so far standing firm on his demand to keep the same access to British waters as France currently has.
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EU negotiators suggest that while they wait for Boris Johnson to offer concessions on state aid, France’s stance on fish is becoming a major focus of concern.
Two EU diplomatic sources revealed that other member states are trying to get France to compromise in the talks with Britain.
An EU diplomat told Reuters: “The French realise full well that their demands on fisheries were unrealistic. We need them to climb down at some point.”
However, a leading French EU lawmaker rejected calls for compromise, telling Reuters this week there could be no annual quota negotiation in a trade deal with Britain.
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