Michel Barnier issues Brexit trade deal warning over fishing rights

Michel Barnier warns the UK there will be NO Brexit trade deal at the end of the year unless Downing Street caves in on the crunch issue of fishing rights by the end of next month

  • Post-Brexit trade talks between the UK and the EU remain in a state of deadlock 
  • EU is adamant fishing issue must be resolved before talks can move forward 
  • But the UK is increasingly angry at the EU’s refusal to talk about other issues 

Michel Barnier today warned the UK risks splitting from the European Union at the end of the year without a trade deal unless Downing Street caves in on the crunch issue of fishing rights. 

The bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator said he is ‘worried and disappointed’ after informal discussions with UK counterpart David Frost this week ended in failure. 

He said Britain had failed to make any concessions or signal a willingness to compromise in key areas in order to break the current deadlock.

Mr Barnier reiterated that the broad terms of a deal must be in place by the ‘strict deadline’ of the end of next month in order for it be ratified by the end of the transition period on December 31.  

Continued access to UK waters for EU fishing boats as well as a demand for Britain to sign up to a ‘level playing field’ on rules and regulations remain the main sticking points in the talks. 

Mr Barnier said if Number 10 ‘don’t move on the issues which are the key issues of the EU… the UK will take itself the risk of a no deal.’ 

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said today the UK will have to compromise for progress to be made in trade talks 

Speaking after a speech hosted by Dublin’s Institute of International and European Affairs think tank, Mr Barnier said: ‘We need a breakthrough, we need to move. 

‘If the UK wants a deal with us and a fair agreement for a zero-tariff, zero-quota access for British access to our market of 450 million consumers then they will have to move and it is their choice, it is their responsibility.

‘We are ready to make fair and constructive compromise but not at the detriment of the EU.’

Number 10 has said that it believes a trade deal is still possible but that ‘it is clear that it will not be easy to achieve’. 

An eighth round of formal talks is due to get underway in London next week. Mr Barnier said earlier this month that discussions had actually been going ‘backwards’.

He said today: ‘We did not see any change in the position of the UK. This is why I express publicly that I am worried and I am disappointed because, frankly speaking, we have moved. I’ve shown clearly openness to find compromise.

‘If they don’t move on the issues which are the key issues of the EU, the level playing field, fisheries and governance, the UK will take itself the risk of a no deal.’

The EU wants current arrangements on access to British waters for the bloc’s fishing boats to continue but Number 10 is adamant that UK trawlers will be given priority after the transition period. 

Brussels also wants the UK to sign up to a ‘level playing field’ commitment which would mean sticking to EU rules and regulations long into the future to prevent unfair competition. 

Mr Barnier said the EU will not accept the livelihoods of fishermen and women being ‘used as a bargaining chip in these negotiations’.

And he said ‘good luck, good luck’ to those who say leaving without a trade deal has opportunities.

‘Frankly speaking, there is no reason to under-estimate the consequences for many people, many sectors, of a no-deal – it will be a huge difference between a deal and a no deal,’ he added. 

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