EU is set to BACK DOWN in the row over fishing rights after Brexit, sources claim
- The EU’s hardline position on fishing rights has been criticised by UK minsiters
- Under the EU’s plan, European fishermen will keep same access to UK waters
- However, Michael Gove yesterday said the UK will never give in to that demand
- Now, sources suggest the EU could drop their fishing rights demand next month
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
The EU is ready to back down from its hard line position on fishing rights next month, according to senior sources in Brussels.
Under the EU’s current demands, supported by France, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands, Britain would be effectively required to offer European fishermen the same access to UK waters as required by EU membership.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, has previously described the body’s position on fisheries as ‘maximalist’.
However, with European leaders busy in the battle against coronavirus, he has been unable to discuss any changes to the position.
Now, senior European diplomats have admitted they need to get ‘realistic’ about their position on fishing.
Yesterday, minister Michael Gove suggested the UK will never give in to the bloc’s demands to keep its existing access to Britain’s fishing waters.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, has previously described the body’s position on fisheries as ‘maximalist’
Barnier’s struggles to get ‘attention’ from EU leaders amid the coronavirus pandemic is reflected on the other side, with David Frost, Boris Johnson’s chief negotiator, unable to discuss ‘trade-offs’ on key trade and economy areas.
However, as lockdowns are easing and countries are beginning to emerge from coronavirus management, both sides are preparing for a renewed diplomatic focus on Brexit to begin next month
A senior European diplomat told the Times: ‘We should probably get more realistic about our fishing position.
‘These are the things that have to be decided at a much higher level than Frost or Barnier.
‘The pandemic is destroying everything in the sense that everybody’s mind is focused on something totally different to Brexit, which is the recovery in the exit strategy.’
Mr Frost will publish British negotiating texts and legal drafts this week so that EU governments are aware of possible trade offs on fishing and ‘level playing field’ demands on other regulations.
UK officials have claimed Mr Barnier has ‘a problem’ as he is unable to discuss Brexit strategy with EU leaders amid the virus outbreak.
Mr Frost said last Friday: ‘He’s doing a good job with the hand he’s been given.
‘He must know that the mandate is unnegotiable in at least some important areas.’
Michael Gove, pictured in Downing Street on February 11, today said he remains ‘confident’ a Brexit trade deal with the EU can be done by the end of the year
Michael Gove yesterday insisted he remains ‘confident’ the UK and EU can strike a post- Brexit trade deal by the end of the year but warned Brussels it needs to show more ‘flexibility’ during negotiations.
The Minister for the Cabinet Office said the bloc needed to accept Britain is now ‘outside their club’ and as a result will not agree to bind itself to EU rules.
The two sides are currently in a ‘standstill’ transition period which gives them until the end of the year to agree a comprehensive trade deal.
But with talks stalling there are growing calls for the Government to seek an extension to the transition period – something Downing Street has categorically ruled out.
Yesterday, Labour insisted ministers must seek a delay if they are unable to secure a ‘good deal’ by the close of 2020 in order to avoid the ‘further shock’ of a No Deal split after the current coronavirus disruption.
Mr Gove told Sky News: ‘There is a difference of course between the UK’s position and the EU’s position.
‘The EU want us to accept their rules even though we are outside their club and they want to have access to our fish even though we have left.
‘We are making it clear to the EU that we can’t do a deal on those terms but I am confident that a deal is there to be done, it just requires a degree of flexibility on the EU’s side which I am sure that they will appreciate that they need to show.’