Britain u-turns on fishing rights in order to salvage Brexit trade talks
Britain has u-turned on the issue of fishing rights in UK waters in a last minute attempt to salvage Brexit trade talks.
The UK offered the EU a three-year transition period for its fishing fleets to leave British seas beginning from 2021.
The idea of a phase-out has been discussed before but details of how one would work were not released until recently.
“We have a long way to go but if the other problematic issues can be sorted, it doesn’t look like fisheries will stand in the way of an agreement”, said one senior EU diplomat, according to The Guardian.
The news comes after Ireland’s foreign minster Simon Coveney said a deal between London and Brussels was still possible during a visit to Washington on Tuesday.
“The obstacles are not insurmountable,” he said. “We should be able to get this deal done.”
The UK remains fixed on replacing the common fisheries policy with a system of “zonal attachment” that would offer a significant increase in catches for British fishing fleets.
The system would see both sides agree on what percentage of stocks are shared on a yearly basis.
Failure to reach a compromise would see European boats blocked from entering UK waters.
The offer was part of five new draft negotiating documents submitted by the government on how to deal with the issues of the level playing field, law and judicial cooperation, civil nuclear and social security coordination.
An EU official said: “We can confirm that we received additional documents from the UK. We are studying them.”
According to Brussels sources, the Guardian wrote, the UK’s paper on state aid, still the most contentious of the outstanding issues, offered to lay out a series of “principles” on controlling domestic subsidies.
But the draft failed to offer appropriate “governance” proposals that would allow Brussels to keep the UK to its pledges, EU sources said.
This comes as news of British car manufacturers facing higher export tariffs with or without a Brexit deal has surfaced.
The European Commission (EC) has rejected proposals for components from Japan and Turkey used on UK car production lines to be considered British.
According to a letter to the car industry from Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator Lord Frost, seen by the BBC, the EC rejected the key request.
The BBC said it has also obtained a separate draft legal text in which the UK requested the manufacturing of goods such as electric cars and batteries to be counted as British, even if the majority of components are imported.
Both documents reportedly refer to the need for UK manufacturers, even if a deal is reached, to ensure that goods exported from the UK are British-made and contain a certain amount of British parts, believed to be about half.
An anticipated deal is expected to allow any components sourced from EU countries to count as British, an idea known as “cumulation”.
However the letter from Lord Frost reportedly says the EU has denied the request to extend cumulation to include other partners of the UK and EU, including Turkey and Japan.
According to the BBC, the letter said: “The commission has made clear that it will not agree third-country cumulation in any circumstances, which we regret, but obviously cannot insist upon.
“I am sorry to say that so far they (EU negotiators) have neither been willing to discuss these nor share any proposed text with us.”