Posted on May 26, 2020
EU negotiators are willing to shift their stance on fisheries in negotiations with Britain next week, sources said, in what would be the first major concession from the bloc as trade-deal talks otherwise appear at an impasse.
The issue is particularly sensitive for France, as beleaguered President Macron has promised the French fishing fleet access to UK waters. The 27-nation bloc says it would not seal a new trade deal with Britain without a stable agreement on the issue.
Currently, fishing mostly takes place in UK waters but most of the catch goes to continental fishermen, and EU negotiators are known to be banking on the assumption that for economic reasons the current UK government would secretly like to maintain the status quo.
Britain is saying that as a newly independent coastal state, it wants to be in control of its waters and fish, however this vague statement categorically does not rule out selling fishing rights to the highest bidder.
The EU also wishes to maintain the status quo: “There have been hints of a possible reconciliation...,” an unnamed official is reported by Reuters as saying ahead of next week's talks.
“We would be looking to shift on demands to keep everything as is now, a somewhat maximalist opening position, if the UK also moved from its position of coastal attachment. That’s where the room for compromise lies.”
An EU diplomat following Brexit also said the bloc’s executive Commission - which is negotiating with Britain on behalf of member states - wants to seek a potential compromise on fisheries in talks next week.
“Our opening line of keeping the current terms is impossible to uphold,” the person said. “We’d be looking to some narrowing of the positions.”
Any agreement between London and the European Commission would need the approval of all the bloc’s member states to come into effect: French EU affairs minister, Amelie de Montchalin, said that Paris was willing to listen to and consider any new proposal from London.
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