Monday

27th Sep 2021

Fish complicates last push for post-Brexit deal

  • Fishing is still a key sticking point in the talks on the future relationship between the UK and EU (Photo: Bakkafrost)

The UK government has dug in its heels on the fisheries issue in its negotiations with the EU, with Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney warning the issue could sink the entire agreement on the future relations.

Negotiations between the EU and UK continued over the weekend without any breakthrough, with time running short as the UK will break all existing ties at the end of the year.

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The EU team of negotiators stayed in London for further talks during what could be the final week of talks.

"If there isn't an agreement on this [fishing], the whole thing could fall on the back of it and that's the worry," Coveney told Ireland's Newstalk radio.

British foreign secretary Dominic Raab called on the EU to recognise that regaining control over British waters is a question of sovereignty for the UK, saying a deal on fishing "ought" to be achievable this week.

"I think it's important that the EU understand the point of principle," Raab said on Sky News.

Fishing as a sector contributed just 0.03 percent of British economic output in 2019, but many Brexit supporters see it as a symbol of regained sovereignty.

The EU could accept a cut of 15 to 18 percent in its share of the catch in British waters, but the UK has rejected that.

London also wants annual negotiations on access to British waters for EU fleets - but the bloc is aiming for a longer-term agreement.

Britain also wants a so-called "zonal attachment" to agree on a total available catch in UK waters, which would give it a larger quota share than how the EU would calculate them.

Deal or no deal

"If the UK wants a deal here, there's a deal to be done. If the UK wants to use fish as an excuse not to have a deal, then that could happen too," Coveney was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Other outstanding issues have been the level playing field, a mechanism to protect against the UK undercutting the EU on standards or by increasing state aid, and on how to settle disputes.

A spokesman for British prime minister Boris Johnson said there had been some progress but "there still remains divergence on issues [such as] fisheries and the level playing field."

"We want to try and reach a free trade agreement as soon as possible but we've been clear we won't change our negotiating position," the spokesman added.

German chancellor Angela Merkel also warned that, on the other hand, some member states are growing impatient with Britain.

"Britain and the EU share common values," she told an online video conference on Monday. "If we failed to reach a deal, it would not sent a good signal," she added.

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