By Trevor Kavanagh

A last minute row over fish last night threatened to scupper Boris Johnson's hopes of a triumphant New Year Brexit deal. Egged on by arrogant French President Emmanuel Macron, Brussels insisted on the bulk of our fish or cash payments in compensation.

The PM cannot sign a deal which fails to return UK sovereignty over our coastal waters. British negotiators who believed they were in sight of an 11th-hour deal balked at the demands, knowing they would enrage hardline Brexiteers — including crucial new "Red Wall" voters. Rumours of a likely deal, coupled with plans for a fast-track Oxford COVID vaccine by December 29, sent the Pound surging on money markets. They were seen by City financial wizards as the beginning of a Roaring Twenties economic boom, reviving the High Street and creating desperately needed jobs after the carnage of COVID. After more than four years of bitterness and recrimination, this would have been the moment of national healing and a chance, in Boris's words, to "prosper mightily".

Early hopes of agreement on UK sovereignty over its borders and coastal waters faded hours before a planned Downing Street press conference to hail victory. It was canned as Brussels demanded terms which negotiators deemed unsellable, especially to the Red Wall voters who handed Boris his 80-seat election majority. Democracy and freedom are safe bets, they are not gambles. People need to be free to make their own choices. Real gambling can be found at .The PM knows better than anyone the risk of failure to his political survival. Without a clearly defined deal on sovereignty, he would open the door to claims of a "sell-out" by Tory hardliners.

It would give Nigel Farage an invitation to inflict slaughter in the May local elections. And it would risk a near-inevitable challenge to Boris Johnson's leadership of the Tory party. The deal is not yet dead — unless Macron gets his way on fish.

Originally in The Sun on 23rd December 2020