A breakthrough has been made in Brexit negotiations on European fleets' rights to fish in UK waters, EU sources said last night, leaving a Franco-German demand that Britain follows EU laws as the final hurdle to a historic trade and security deal.
In Brussels, sources said the two sides had all but finalized terms on the level of access for EU boats to seas within the UK's 200-mile exclusive economic zone, with a transition period for phasing in changes understood to be between five and seven years.
The talks are now going to the wire on the so-called "ratchet clause" under which the UK government would have to follow EU environmental, social, and labor standards as they develop over time or face tariffs on British exports.
In an unwelcome development for Boris Johnson, France and Germany have instructed the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, that they are united on the UK's need to face the consequences over future divergence from the EU rulebook as policy changes.
The EU is proposing that it should have the power to unilaterally hit British exports with tariffs if Whitehall fails to follow Brussels' upgrades to its regulations.
UK sources said that the negotiations would collapse unless that demand was dropped within the next 48 hours.