The European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has told member states that he made an offer to the UK that would involve handing back between 15% and 18% of the value of fish stocks currently caught by EU fleets in British waters, RTÉ News understands.

Mr Barnier conveyed the information during a meeting with EU ambassadors this morning, it is understood.

On average, European vessels catch €650m worth of fish from UK waters each year.

Mr Barnier's offer would be worth up to €117m to the UK fish industry in both the pelagic and demersal sectors.

Mr Barnier held a virtual meeting with fisheries minister from eight coastal states this afternoon.

Earlier, he said he would travel to London this evening for talks with his British counterpart David Frost on a new trade deal, but said the "same significant divergences persist".

The issues that remain to be resolved are those around governance, the so-called level playing field, and fisheries.

In-person talks were stopped after a member of Mr Barnier's team recently tested positive for Covid-19.

Mr Barnier said in a tweet this morning that in line with Belgian rules, he and his team are now no longer in quarantine.

He said he would be briefing members states and the European Parliament and a video conference of fisheries ministers from eight coastal states, including Ireland, is also scheduled for today.

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Mr Frost has insisted a deal "is still possible".

He wrote on Twitter: "Some people are asking me why we are still talking. My answer is that it's my job to do my utmost to see if the conditions for a deal exist. It is late, but a deal is still possible, and I will continue to talk until it's clear that it isn't.

"But for a deal to be possible it must fully respect UK sovereignty.

"That is not just a word - it has practical consequences. That includes: controlling our borders; deciding ourselves on a robust and principled subsidy control system; and controlling our fishing waters.

"We look to reach an agreement on this basis, allowing the new beginning to our relationship with the EU which, for our part, we have always wanted. We will continue to work hard to get it - because an agreement on any other basis is not possible." 

The Minister of State for European Affairs has said he hopes the negotiations will conclude "successfully with a deal".

Thomas Byrne told RTÉ's News at One that the talks are at an extremely intense phase but are continuing and it is "extremely positive" that Mr Barnier is travelling to London and that the UK is still talking.

Meanwhile, an EU diplomat has said there are "only a few days left" for talks, adding that London must budge swiftly to break deadlocks on fishing rights, settling disputes and ensuring fair competition or face a rough split in trade from 2021.

"The gaps on level playing field, governance and fisheries remain large," said the diplomat following a closed-door briefing by Mr Barnier to envoys of the 27 EU states.

"Without London taking the necessary decisions quickly, reaching a deal will be all but impossible. Time is running out quickly. There are only a few days left for further negotiations."

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said substantial and important differences remained with the European Union on a Brexit trade deal.

"Clearly there are substantial and important differences still to be bridged but we're getting on with it", Mr Johnson told reporters.

"The likelihood of a deal is very much determined by our friends and partners in the EU - there's a deal there to be done if they want to do it".

Yesterday, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney described the talks on the final outstanding issues toward reaching a post-Brexit EU-UK trade deal as "very, very difficult".

On Wednesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned that any deal must not undermine the EU single market.

She warned that Britain will not enjoy the benefits of EU membership from the outside: "There will be a clear difference between being a full member of the Union, and being just a valued partner."

The British government has been resisting signing up to the EU's vision of a post-Brexit "level playing field", with trade penalties if either side diverges from agreed standards.

Mr Johnson has also introduced a draft law to govern the UK internal market that his own government admits would breach promises made in Britain's EU withdrawal treaty.

Talks have now blown past several unofficial deadlines, leaving only a narrow window for agreement before the end of the year.

If a deal cannot be signed and ratified by 31 December, cross-channel trade will face a tariff barrier.

Additional reporting Reuters