Brussels: EU and UK negotiators held “technical negotiations” in Brussels on Saturday. There is no sign that they broke the deadlock on fishing rights after Brexit in time to save the trade agreement.
Informed sources on both sides say that the current fishing industry is the main obstacle to any agreement that may take effect on January 1 to prevent the sudden restoration of tariffs, which will cause economic turmoil on both sides of the strait.
“It remains very blocked,” one EU diplomat told AFP.
One EU diplomat said Barnier had proposed EU fishermen giving up nearly a quarter of the value of the fish they catch in UK waters. Britain is understood to be holding out for getting back much more than half.
The UK has suggested this compromise last for three years before it is renegotiated, whereas Europe is holding out for seven. “It’s all down to numbers now,” the European diplomat said.
The EU’s pointman in the talks, Michel Barnier, has consulted member states that share fishing waters with Britain on the haggling over the issue, the diplomat said.
The European Parliament emphasized that if members of the European Parliament hope to approve the agreement under the simplified procedures before the end of the year, midnight on Sunday (2300 GMT) will be the last moment for transaction review.
Their members of parliament in the UK are in recess, but they can be recalled within 48 hours.
But the EU capitals have not bound the deadline for the European Parliament.
France’s European affairs minister, Clement Beaune, warned that time left to get a deal was “a matter of hours,” echoing words used by Barnier a day earlier.
But, he told French radio, talks will not be called to a halt even if they go past Sunday.
“We won’t do that because what is at risk is whole sectors like fishing, like sustainable competition conditions for our businesses,” he said.