Barnier to CONCEDE on fishing: EU compromise could pave way for deal – major breakthrough
MICHEL BARNIER has set his eyes on a fisheries agreement with Britain in the comings weeks when post-Brexit trade talks resume.
Brexit: Steve Double slams EU’s ‘unfair’ fishing quotas
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator told senior members of the European Parliament securing access to Britain’s waters is the easiest of the “divisive issues” to overcome. The Frenchman said the two sides have struggled to make progress on the overall trade agreement because of disagreements over the bloc’s demands for a regulatory level-playing field and fisheries. He was said to be confident in securing access to Britain’s fishing waters after the transition period ends in December even if trade talks breakdown, according to sources involved in the meeting.
A source told Express.co.uk: “Fisheries and regulatory alignment are the most divisive issues.
“On fisheries, Barnier seems more confident that an agreement is easier to find.”
Mr Barnier is understood to be poised to water down the EU’s demands for unchanged access to Britain’s fishing waters to prevent UK-EU trade talks from collapsing.
EU sources have said he was preparing to drop his “maximalist” position of insisting that the status quo on fishing rights in UK territorial waters remains in force after the transition period expires.
Michel Barnier hints fisheries agreement could be easier to conclude than rest of trade deal
Michel Barnier is the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator
One EU diplomat said: “Our opening line of keeping the current terms is impossible to uphold. That is clearly unattainable so we’d be looking to some narrowing of the positions.”
An EU official said: “There have been hints of a possible reconciliation of approaches. We would be looking to shift on demands to keep every- thing as is now, a somewhat maximalist opening position, if the UK also moved from its position of coastal attachment.”
Boris Johnson has always been adamant that the UK must become an independent coastal state with full control over its waters.
Downing Street has also refused to consider EU proposals for a regulatory level playing field that will keep Britain tied to the bloc’s rulebook.
David Frost and Michel Barnier during their last face-to-face meeting in March
Mr Barnier told MEPs he believes David Frost, the Prime Minister’s chief negotiator, would be ready to accept no deal trade tariffs in order to secure full regulatory independence.
The Frenchman also repeated claims in a letter sent to opposition MPs at Westminster that the EU is ready to accept a two-year delay to trade negotiations.
The offer was yesterday ruled out by the Government in order to avoid paying vast sums into the EU budget.
Mr Frost said it is the “firm policy of the Government that we will not extend” the transition period and “we would not agree to it” if asked.
UK and EU negotiators have struggled to agree on a future fisheries pact
He added: “We have always put a lot of emphasis on economic and political freedom at the end of this year and on avoiding ongoing significant payments into the EU budget. “And, of course, those things are accomplished by ending the transition period at the end of the year.”
Appearing before MPs, Mr Frost said the EU was still “coming to terms” with the fact the UK wants to a clean break from the bloc and will not compromise on its hardline stance.
He urged Mr Barnier to “assess reality in the cold light of day” if he wants to secure a deal.
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