The UK officially left the European Union back in January and negotiations have been ongoing with neither side able to come to an agreement. But during crunch talks with Commission President Ursula von Der Leyen on Monday (June 15), Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there was “very good chance” of agreeing a trade deal by the end of the year.
One of the main disputes during the negotiation was fishing as the EU maintained Britain must respect the right of member states’ fleets to access UK waters.
Under the Commons Fisheries Policy (CFP), all member states are given access to EU waters.
Each coastal state has the right to manage natural resources in its Exclusive Economic Zone but under the CFP, the fishing area of all EU states is considered one zone.
With the UK having a large coastal area, some critics have called it unfair and overly centralised.
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But now Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, hinted the UK will have to be treated as an independent coastal state.
He reportedly told other diplomats a compromise would have to wait until other parts of the trade deal were being finalised.
According to The Times, EU sources claimed the Frenchman needs to have the “whole trade deal” which relies heavily on fishing.
A senior EU diplomatic source said: “To dilute the influence of France and the other coastal states, Barnier needs to have the whole trade deal, which stands of falls on fishing.”
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EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier
A UK government sourced said: “There have been signals that this is an area where Mr Barnier wants to move, but as yet there are no firm proposals on the table.”
During negotiations on Monday, the Commission president handed Mr Barnier the flexibility to find common ground with his British counterpart David Frost when talks resume at the end of the month.
Mrs von der Leyen is understood to be buoyed by her discussions with Mr Johnson, who committed himself to finding a deal before the transition period expires at the end of the year.
The Commission chief accepted many of her demands are unprecedented and will require a softened approach in order to broker a compromise.
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But she warned the Prime Minister a complete capitulation by Brussels would result in several member states vetoing the final trade agreement.
EU bureaucrats hope the renegotiation of the controversial Northern Irish backstop last autumn can provide a blueprint for the free-trade agreement after a compromise was found without the bloc having to change its mandate.
Both sides now hope a series of intensified negotiations over the summer will bring along an “early understanding on the principles underlying any agreement”.
They will then turn “political understandings” into draft legal text as talks rumble on into the autumn.
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Speaking after the virtual talks, Mr Johnson said: “It’s very clear what we need to achieve, I don’t think we’re actually that far apart, but what we need now is to see a bit of oomph in the negotiations.
“The faster we can do this the better, we see no reason why you shouldn’t get that done in July.
“The issue is very clear, we fought an election based on these ideas, the manifesto was very clear.”
A joint EU-UK statement said: “The Parties agreed nevertheless that new momentum was required.
UK chief Brexit negotiator David Frost
“They supported the plans agreed by chief negotiators to intensify the talks in July and to create the most conducive conditions for concluding and ratifying a deal before the end of 2020.
“This should include, if possible, finding an early understanding on the principles underlying any agreement.
“The Parties underlined their intention to work hard to deliver a relationship, which would work in the interests of the citizens of the Union and of the United Kingdom.”
Both sides announced the current Brexit extension period will end at the end of this year whether a deal has been agreed or not.