Fresh hope for Brexit deal as EU appears to compromise on fisheries policy

PUBLISHED: 11:37 07 July 2020 | UPDATED: 12:23 07 July 2020

Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, has offered UK negotiators an olive branch, promising a compromise on fisheries policy; Stefan Rousseau

Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, has offered UK negotiators an olive branch, promising a compromise on fisheries policy; Stefan Rousseau

PA Wire/PA Images

Michel Barnier has injected new hope into Brexit talks after appearing to compromise on its fisheries policy.

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Barnier confirmed that Brussels would support a UK proposal to divide fishing quotas according to data that reflects the number of fish in British waters.

Known as zonal attachment, British fishermen will be able to catch fish according to how long the marine life stays in British territory, which is determined by scientific data.

Zonal attachment accommodates for changing water temperatures due to climate change, which has led more fish heading to UK waters.

Brussels has also backtracked on the requirement that EU boats be given the same access to UK waters after it admitted that policy was “clearly not” balanced.

Barnier announced that Brussels was willing to be more “creative” in other areas to keep negotiations moving forward.

According to a transcript of a meeting held on June 23 but published on Monday, Barnier said: “I am waiting with much patience for a reply from the British side.

“If there is no response, there will be no agreement on fisheries and no agreement on trade.”

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He also suggested talks on yearly fishing quotas could be a possibility.

MORE: EU trade official questions whether UK really wants Brexit deal

He said: “You can discuss fishing stocks regularly every year in the light of the scientific advice, so that we can protect resources and biodiversity, but negotiating access to waters and the fish in those waters every year would be impossible for 100-odd species.

“There will be no trade agreement with the UK if there is no balanced agreement on fisheries.

“Is this ‘balanced agreement’ the British position, as it is now? Certainly not.

“Is it the European position as it is today? Clearly not.”

The news comes on the back of Brexit talks breaking up early last week after UK and EU fail to overcome ‘significant differences’.

Fisheries policy has long been a point of contention for both sides. Britain has been arguing for a system based on yearly quotas while the EU said any deal had to be part a larger comprehensive trade agreement.

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