Brexit: Donelan claims fishing demands are 'not unreasonable'
The UK will end the Brexit transition period with the EU on December 31, with talks on a new trade deal stalling over fishing and other issues throughout the year. France President Emmanuel Macron has threatened to block any deal with Britain that sees France lose out on fishing rights. Sources from both camps have raised fears the negotiations will end with a no-deal Brexit, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel calls for a “compromise” between the UK and EU.
Michel Barnier and Lord David Frost, the EU and UK’s chief negotiators, were unable to strike an agreement tonight as significant splits remain on key issues such as fishing.
The Daily Telegraph reported Lord Frost told his European counterpart British fishing sovereignty was non-negotiable tonight, despite the pair believing a deal was close on Thursday.
Britain had compromised and were set to allow the EU to keep nearly 50 percent of current fishing quotas from next year, before moving to annually established quotas, per the report.
But the EU then reportedly countered by insisting “total access” to British waters for 10 years, and reverted back to their original offer of 18 percent of the bloc’s current yield from fishing to the UK.
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Government sources close to the talks told the Daily Telegraph the EU alleged request was “laughable”.
A senior government source said: “Their new offer was frankly laughable.
“They know we can’t possibly accept it. It’s ridiculous.
“If they think we will just cave in, they have made a massive miscalculation.”
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Following the Friday night freeze in talks, Mr Barnier and Lord Frost issued a joint statement relaying the news.
It said: “After one week of intense negotiations in London, the two chief negotiators agreed that the conditions for an agreement are not met, due to significant divergences on ‘level playing field’, governance and fisheries.
“On this basis, they agreed to pause the talks in order to brief their principals on the state of play of the negotiations. President Von der Leyen and Prime Minister Johnson will discuss the state of play.”
Mr Johnson will talk to the European Commission’s President on Saturday, with some suggesting the Prime Minister may plea with Mr Macron to cease “destabilising” the talks.
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The 10-year fishing demand follows the French President placing pressure on the EU by threatening to veto any trade deal which doesn’t meet France’s interests, according to France’s Europe minister, Clement Beaune.
A Bloomberg report also claimed the French ambassador to the EU “warned chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier of how bad it would look if he brokered a deal only to see it vetoed by EU leaders” in a veiled threat.
France, as well as Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark, are concerned that the EU will give up greater access to British waters and back down on ensuring “level-playing field” legislation for businesses.
Despite Mr Macron’s comments, Ms Merkel’s spokesman Stefan Siebert said: “For the chancellor… the willingness to compromise is needed on both sides.
“If you want to have a deal, then both sides need to move towards each other. Everybody has their principles.
“There are red lines, that’s clear – but there’s always room for compromise.”
It comes as British fishermen and Tory MPs have warned Mr Johnson caving to the EU would leave the UK a “permanent client state”.
Former leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said: “We have to be treated like Norway is treated. We’re not looking for an increase, we are looking for control.
“From there, we negotiate with other countries what access they get. It’s as simple as that.”
A “Norway-plus” deal with the EU was touted as an alternative to former Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposed agreement, but has not been pursued by Mr Johnson and Lord Frost.
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