Britain backtracks on fishing rights in order to salvage Brexit trade talks

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the Opportunis IV fishing trawler, during a visit to Peterhead fish

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the Opportunis IV fishing trawler, during a visit to Peterhead fish market near Aberdeen - Credit: PA

Britain has backtracked 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.


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“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.

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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.

News of the concession has prompted an angry response Brexiteers.

"FUMING," @AngloPrima wrote on Twitter.

"Doesn't that make the point of Brexit totally and utterly pointless?," one user posted.

"Did we get the same when the EU decimated our fishing towns?" @EnglishAndProu3 added.

Pat Hall said: "If this is true it will infuriate many fishing communities. I know many people in Grimsby who voted in a Tory MP for the first time in decades last year, believing we would 'take back control' of waters and fishing rights on 1st January next year."

Stephen Phillips added: "Ahhh I see. Johnson didn't ask for an extension to the transition period but he's going to negotiate a separate 3 year transition period. Priceless."

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