Brexit negotiations: Britain, EU try to sort out ‘fishy’ matter
LONDON (UK) – In a desperate bid to strike a last-minute trade deal, the chief negotiators of Britain and the EU are meeting later on Friday to avoid a shaky exit by the end of the year.
Following threats from London that it would undercut the 2020 divorce agreement and after Prime Minister Boris Johnson broke off talks, Brussels said it was ready for negotiations on drafting legal texts of a deal.
“It’s very important to be back at the table,” EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said when he arrived in London on Thursday. “We have a huge common responsibility.”
“Every day counts,” said Barnier, who will meet his British counterpart David Frost.
Despite making some progress on competition guarantees, including state aid rules, the toughest nut to crack remains fish: the prime minister has insisted that the UK will regain control of its waters while the bloc wants access to it.
Junior finance minister Stephen Barclay said he was hopeful of striking a deal.
“But that deal needs to reflect that fact that we’re leaving the EU, we will regain control of our fisheries,” he told Sky.
Barnier said he was only worried about the issue of fishing. “Fish is now the thing to tackle. The other elements seem doable, more or less,” said a source.
Although fishing contributed only 0.03% towards the British economic output last year, many supporters of Brexit consider it a symbol of the regained sovereignty. Along with fish and shellfish processing, the sector makes up 0.1% of the nation’s GDP.
Fishing in British waters is crucial for fishermen from France and being locked out post-Brexit would be a big issue for President Emmanuel Macron.