Today: ‘Urgent’ EU meeting on fisheries may signal breakthrough in Brexit talks
Brussels’ chief negotiator Michel Barnier has summoned fisheries ministers from EU nations, indicating that a major breakthrough in Brexit talks could be about to happen.
The “urgent” meeting is reportedly taking place today.
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Future fisheries arrangements between the UK and EU have been one of the largest barriers to a post-Brexit trade deal.
Time is running short for a deal to be struck, with the UK set to leave the EU’s single market and customs union on 31 December.
The fact Barnier has set up a meeting with other EU nations about fisheries this late in talks may indicate that the basis of an agreement has been struck with the UK.
It comes after Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said on Monday that he was “hopeful” the outline of a deal could be agreed by the end of this week.
Barnier’s starting position in talks with the UK was that Brussels wanted EU countries to retain the same rights to fish in British waters as they had prior to Brexit.
This was turned down by UK chief negotiator David Frost, who said on many occasions that the UK will be a “independent coastal state” from next year.
Frost has pushed for a “zonal” arrangement, which would see EU countries allowed only a certain amount of fish from UK waters every year.
The UK also wants this arrangement to be re-negotiated on a regular basis.
A Number 10 spokesperson said earlier this month: “We’ll only be able to make progress if the EU accepts the reality that the UK will have the right to control access to its waters at the end of this year.”
UK-EU negotiations have continued on Zoom this week, after a member of the Brussels team tested positive for Covid last Thursday.
Downing Street today said it would like to resume talks in person, but that this was up to the EU to decide.
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