Last-ditch trade talks center on unpopular EU fishing offer

Europe is embroiled in a political skirmish over fish caught in the United Kingdom’s waters.

Britain promises to reject any proposal demanding one-sixth of the value of fish stocks caught by EU boats along British waters to be included as part of the Brexit deal. 

Michel Barnier is the EU’s chief negotiator in this new round of talks happening with British representative David Frost. Both sides still differ substantially on critical issues with hardly a month remaining when a new trade deal must take effect. 

The proposal is believed to have risen from a meeting between Mr. Barnier and several ministers of fisheries representing EU member states with shorelines close to the United Kingdom. 

Also read: What's happening with Brexit?

Britain would like a similar agreement to that of Norway that is yet to join the EU, where the latter can renegotiate quotas on fishing by foreign vessels. On average, the EU catches fish worth €650m off the UK’s waters. This offer means Brussels would sacrifice an equivalent of 18% of that revenue. 

Mr. Barnier checked into London on Friday evening to resume trade talks. In a sign of reluctance to continue with the endless back and forth, he described the current situation as approaching a ‘take it or leave it moment.’ This is the first face-to-face meet between Mr. Frost and his French counterpart since the latter went into self-isolation over a team member catching coronavirus. 

Any failure to reach a settlement between the two parties will result in a chaotic divorce during the New Year. This will mean a return of the World Trade Organization terms that will see tariffs imposed on goods arriving into and out of the continent. Negotiators are hard-pressed to conclude the talks as soon as possible. 

Also read: Gibraltar Complicates the UK’s Post-Brexit Border Plans

Lord Frost took to Twitter to defend his continued negotiations pointing out his obligation and duty to “to talk until it's clear that it isn't.” He likened the current situation to disrespect on the United Kingdom’s sovereignty and desire to control borders, develop a robust subsidy system, and control the fishing waterways. 

Britain has thus far traded with the EU on the same terms as part of a transition agreement that expires later this year. 

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