Wednesday, 2 Dec 2020

Brussels caves: BBC’s Katya Adler says EU ‘knows it has to concede big time’ on fishing

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BBC Europe Editor Katya Adler said European Union member states are looking at each other “suspiciously” over the prospect of giving up their fishing rights to secure a Brexit deal. The EU has maintained it wants to maintain access to British waters at the end of the transition period, with the issue becoming one of the key points of contention in the negotiations. Asked whether a deal could ultimately come down to the “nitty-gritty’ of fisheries, Ms Adler told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s very possible on the fishing front.

“As we’ve discussed many times, fishing is not very significant in GDP terms, either to the UK or EU coastal states but politically it’s very huge and, of course, for fishing communities individually it’s about their livelihoods.

“Both sides have to be able to turn around to their respective populations and say, ‘ok, well, there’s been a compromise made but this is what we can walk away with.’

“On fishing, this is where the EU is going to have to compromise big time and among the coastal nations – say France, the Netherlands, Spain – they’re looking at each other suspiciously and saying, ‘well, I don’t want to give up more of my fishing rights than you’ve got’.”

She continued: “So it does come down to herring versus cod. 

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“But, of course, what the EU can also do is financially compensate fisher people who lose out when concessions are made to the UK.

“The standoff point where we are at the moment is that the EU knows it has to concede big time on fish but is waiting to see if the UK accepts it has to give in to certain EU fundamental demands on the level playing field – on competition.”

UK negotiator Lord Frost travelled to Brussels on Sunday for the latest round of talks with counterpart Michel Barnier.

Lord Frost struck a sombre note at the prospect of a deal coming to life this week, as he insisted the two sides remained diverged on many issues still.

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But signs have begun to emerge about the bloc realising the importance of compromise being found ahead of the EU Summit scheduled for November 19.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said a proposal both sides “can live with” must be put forward in the next few days.

On Sunday, Mr Coveney said: “We really have to try and find a way of coming up with a compromise on fish that both sides can live with.

“And we need to try and dial down the language on this because it is very easy to become emotive.”

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Should a deal be struck in mid-November, the finer details of legal texts would then start being exchanged on the week beginning November 23.

A source close to the negotiations, added: “If a deal happens, we think it will be early that week.

“It could conceivably go another day or two, but I don’t see how it can go any longer than that.”

A Whitehall official close to the negotiations told Express.co.uk they hoped to see some “light at the end of the tunnel”.

They added: “We are standing our ground, let’s hope Brussels come to sense.”

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