European Union is set to 'sideline chief negotiator Michel Barnier'

European Union is set to ‘sideline chief negotiator Michel Barnier’ to crack Brexit deadlock as ‘heads of member states take over’

  • European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen ‘to sideline Mr Barnier’
  • Heads of the 27 remaining member states are believed to be taking over the role
  • They hope move will heal divisions between two sides as transition period nears

The EU is set to sideline Michel Barnier to try to crack the Brexit negotiations deadlock, it was reported tonight.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is expected to stand Brussels’ chief negotiator aside to help bring about a trade deal with the UK.

Heads of the 27 remaining member states are believed to be taking over the role after a speech from Mrs von der Leyen on September 16.

They hope the move will heal divisions – with Britain and the EU blaming each other for the stalemate – between the two sides as the timer on negotiations ticks down.

The EU is set to sideline Michel Barnier (pictured) to try to crack the Brexit negotiations deadlock, it was reported tonight

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (pictured) is expected to stand Brussels’ chief negotiator aside to help bring about a trade deal with the UK

An EU diplomat told the Telegraph Mrs von der Leyen is expected to ‘set the scene to sideline Barnier and [the UK’s David] Frost to find a high level political solution’.

Why the complex issue of UK-EU fishing rights is leaving Brexit talks floundering in cold water 

Each country has an Exclusive Economic Zone which can extend up to 200 nautical miles from the coast. 

That country has special fishing rights over that area. 

However, in the EU each country’s Exclusive Economic Zone is effectively merged into one joint EU zone. 

All fishing activity within that zone is then regulated by the bloc’s controversial Common Fisheries Policy which dictates how many of each type of fish can be caught.

The joint EU zone is open to fishermen from every member state. 

But after the Brexit transition period the UK will regain sole control of its Exclusive Economic Zone and the bolstered Royal Navy Fishery Protection Squadron will be tasked with patrolling it to make sure every vessel operating there has the right to do so.

The European Commission president, German chancellor Angela Merkel and President of the European Council Charles Michel ‘will then lead talks’ for the EU.

The Commission would not be drawn on the ‘State of the Union’ speech when approached by the Telegraph.

It comes as Lord Frost warned Brussels’ demands on fishing and state subsidies could ‘limit the progress’ made in talks next week.

In a sign the UK could be edging closer to a No Deal Brexit, Mr Frost said: ‘The EU still insists we change our positions on state aid and fisheries if there are to be substantive textual discussions on anything else.

‘From the very beginning we have been clear about what we can accept in these areas, which are fundamental to our status as an independent country.

‘We will negotiate constructively but the EU’s stance may, realistically, limit the progress we can make next week.’

His comments on Twitter came after Mr Barnier said while Britain can regain control of its waters, ‘the fish which are inside those waters’ are ‘another story’.

The bloc wants to retain access for its fishing boats, but No 10 is adamant that British trawlers will be given priority.

Brussels is also demanding a ‘level playing field’ on state aid rules, which would effectively tie Britain to EU regulations after the transition period finishes at the end of the year.

Boris Johnson insisted yesterday the UK will ‘prosper mightily’ regardless of the outcome of the trade talks.

Asked about hauliers’ concerns about chaos at the border, Mr Johnson said: ‘We’re ready for any eventuality, of course.

‘But we must make sure that people understand that, at the end of the year, whatever happens, we are leaving the EU, leaving the transition period. We will get through this.

The EU is demanding continued access to UK waters for the bloc’s fishing boats but Number 10 is adamant that British trawlers will be given priority. A fishing vessel is pictured working in the English Channel on August 10 

This map shows the extent of the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone – the waters Britain will take back control of after Brexit. At the moment the EEZ of every EU member state is merged into one large zone which can be accessed by fishermen from all over Europe.

‘It’s absolutely vital that our partners understand that the UK is going to do what we need to do.’

The Road Haulage Association is among seven logistics groups which have written to Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, warning that the supply chain from the EU will be ‘severely disrupted’ next year without urgent action to plug ‘significant gaps’ in our preparations.

A No 10 spokesman said in response: ‘We have been working closely with industry throughout and will continue to do so. We will get through this.’

Key dates in the road to Britain leaving the EU: Four years of Brexit chaos

February 20, 2016: David Cameron announces the date for the referendum on whether to leave the EU. 

June 23, 2016: The UK votes to leave the EU. 

July 13, 2016: Theresa May becomes PM after seeing off challenges from Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.

March 29, 2017: Mrs May formally notifies the EU that the UK is triggering the Article 50 process for leaving the bloc. 

June 8, 2017: The Tories lose their majority in the snap election called by Mrs May in a bid to strengthen her hand on Brexit. Mrs May manages to stay in power propped up by the DUP. 

November 2018: Mrs May finally strikes a Withdrawal Agreement with the EU, and it is approved by Cabinet – although Esther McVey and Dominic Raab resign. 

December 2018: Mrs May sees off a vote of no confidence in her leadership triggered by Tory MP furious about her Brexit deal. 

January 15-16, 2019: Mrs May loses first Commons vote on her Brexit deal by a massive 230 votes. But she sees off a Labour vote of no confidence in the government.

March 12, 2019: Despite tweaks following talks with the EU, Mrs May’s deal is defeated for a second time by 149 votes.

March 29, 2019: Mrs May’s deal is defeated for a third time by a margin of 58 votes. 

May 24, 2019: Mrs May announces she will resign on June 7, triggering a Tory leadership contest.

July 23-24, 2019: Mr Johnson wins the Tory leadership, becomes PM and eventually strikes a new deal with the EU.  

October 22, 2019: MPs approve Mr Johnson’s deal at second reading stage in a major breakthrough – but they vote down his proposed timetable and vow to try to amend the Bill later. The PM responds by pausing the legislation and demands an election.  

October 29, 2019: MPs finally vote for an election, after the SNP and Lib Dems broke ranks to vote in favour, forcing the Labour leadership to agree. 

December 12, 2019: The Tories win a stunning 80 majority after vowing to ‘get Brexit done’ during the campaign. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour records its worst performance since 1935 after he sits on the fence over Brexit, saying there should be a second referendum and he wants to remain neutral. 

December 20, 2019: The new-look Commons passes Mr Johnson’s Withdrawal Bill by a majority of 124.  

January 9: EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill cleared its Commons stages, and was sent to the House of Lords.

January 22: The EU Withdrawal Bill completed its progress through Parliament after the Commons overturned amendments tabled by peers, and the Lords conceded defeat. 

January 24: Mr Johnson signs the ratified Withdrawal Agreement in another highly symbolic step. 

January 29: MEPs approve the Withdrawal Agreement by 621 to 49. Amid emotional scenes in Brussels, some link hands to sing a final chorus of Auld Lang Syne. 

11pm, January 31: The UK formally leaves the EU – although stays bound to the bloc’s rules for at least another 11 months during the transition period.  

March 5: The first round of trade talks between the UK and the EU conclude.

June 30: Downing Street denies the option of extending the Brexit transition period as Mr Johnson repeatedly insists it will end on December 31, with or without a trade deal. 

August 21: Michel Barnier says talks have actually gone ‘backwards’ after months of negotiating deadlock as both sides concede a deal appears unlikely.

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