A post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and EU remains on a knife-edge, with the two negotiating teams working through the night in London in a frantic attempt to make a major breakthrough. Britain will fully cut ties with the bloc at the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31, but any trade deal will still have to be ratified by both the UK and EU parliaments. Fishing rights has remained a major stumbling block in post-Brexit trade negotiations, with both sides seemingly refusing to give too much ground on the crucial red line.
Boris Johnson has repeatedly said the UK will “take back control of its waters” when the country begins life away from EU ties next year.
But the EU negotiating team, under pressure from member states such as France and the Netherlands, are insisting their fishermen should have significant access to British waters and keep a large share of what they catch.
France is also ramping up the pressure and has issued a warning to Britain should an agreement on fishing not prove beneficial to them.
Xavier Bertrand, President of the Hauts de France region near the major port of Calais, tweeted: “Our fishermen must not be the collateral victims of Brexit!
“A win-win agreement must be obtained.
“If our fishermen cannot access British waters, then British fish must not enter the European market.”
French President Emmanuel Macron – an increasingly vocal voice in the fishing debate – is also trying to force Britain into providing the EU with widespread access to British fishing waters.
He wants the EU to force the UK back to return to the negotiating table in the new year without the pressure of a deal having to be completed before the transition period deadline on December 31.
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The deal would also see EU boats keeping quotas for fish that are popular in the EU but rarely eaten in the UK unchanged, such as herring and mackerel.
Mr Parsons tweeted: “EU sources suggest progress on fishing rights, based around this idea.
“UK fishermen get notably increased quota of stocks that are sold to UK customers.
“EU boats keep similar quotas for fish (like herring, mackerel) that are loved in the EU but rarely eaten in the UK.”
Meanwhile, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier is now operating within “millimetres” of the EU’s red lines over post-Brexit fishing rights as time runs out to get a deal over the line.
EU bosses fear he is running out of room to manoeuvre as talks over future access to Britain’s coastal waters remain on close to the brink.
Senior sources are repeatedly warning there now might not be an acceptable solution for all remaining 27 EU member states.
An EU diplomat said: “We are millimetres away from the bottom line of the mandate and we have to really look at the details of what is now being negotiated.
“Fish is a very important factor because of the way it plays into domestic politics in France and other member states.
“I don’t think there is a need or a desire by leaders to really change the mandate.
“It includes our bottom line and we are not prepared to cross it.”
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.