Brexit Talks Endgame: EU-UK in Choppy Waters Over Fishing Rights

Written by | Monday, December 7th, 2020

Once the United Kingdom has left the European Union for real in a month’s time, EU rules will no longer apply to the UK. The transformation that has beckoned since the 2016 referendum — covering immigration to industry, finance to fishing, security to science — will at last take place. The changes will be markedly more disruptive and costly unless both sides agree a deal on trade and the future relationship. But reports of progress are still counterbalanced by news of disagreement and setbacks on the big issues. We are now in December and this really is the endgame. Timing has always been the true enemy of Brexit. Even if EU and British negotiators secure a deal in the coming days, it would still need to be approved by both sides to take effect.
Yet the stumbling blocks echo those at the outset: Fairness in future competition, how a deal should be governed and, last but not least, EU fishing rights in UK waters. And it is the last issue – fishing rights – that continues to be a hot button issue in the Brexit trade talks. French Prime Minister Jean Castex travelled to the north of the country to speak with people who work in fisheries on Thursday (3 December), who said a plan for fishing would not be “sacrificed”. “We obviously hope to get a deal under the best conditions possible, but not just any conditions. And certainly not under conditions where fishing would be sacrificed as a variable,” Castex said, announcing a government-backed plan in support of the French fishing industry. Many businesses are concerns that without a deal, they will be prevented from fishing in British waters.
The EU’s Common Fisheries Policy provides for quota sharing and access rights for member states. But in the UK, fishing rights represent a symbol of sovereignty with the UK becoming an independent coastal state. The UK is aiming to reduce access for European boats. British foreign secretary Dominic Raab recently said fishing rights were a main obstacle among a “fairly narrow” set of issues to resolve. He said the UK wanted control over its fishing grounds. Meanwhile, people in the Kent country, which is located between London and the Strait of Dover, which separates England from mainland Europe, say they do not know what to expect on 1 January 2021. “The problem that we have is that we don’t know what Brexit means, we don’t know what’s going to happen,“ is how the Kent residents feel about the whole situation. For many, the clock on negotiations that could clarify how it will work appears to be running out.

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