UK’s fishing red lines ‘not unreasonable’ as Norway ‘shows how agreement should be done’

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Fishing remains one of the main stumbling blocks to a post-Brexit free trade deal between the UK and Brussels and remains the focus on ongoing talks in London. Michel Barnier touched down in the capital on Friday evening ahead of a weekend of meetings with Lord Frost.

As the discussions continued on Monday, with just weeks to go until the December 31 Brexit transition deadline, Mr Barnier struck an optimistic note when he said: “There are reasons for determination.”

Lord Frost is standing firm on the UK’s demand to take back control of its waters.

Mr Barnier on the other hand is fighting hard to get a favourable deal for European fishermen, particularly the French and Dutch trawlers who depend heavily on British seas for their catch.

Political commentator Anna Bailey said the UK’s recent fishing deal with Norway is a typical example of how two sovereign states can come to a fair agreement.

Writing in BrifingsForBritain.co.uk, she said: “The Norway deal is significant because it shows exactly how a fisheries agreement between two sovereign states should be done.

“It proves that the UK’s red lines on a fisheries agreement with the EU are not unreasonable; on the contrary, those red lines simply represent standard international practice.

“The EU, in contrast, is demanding an arrangement the like of which does not exist anywhere in the modern world: one that holds free trade hostage to payment in natural resources.”

In September London and Oslo signed the Fisheries Framework Agreement, under which both sides have pledged to hold annual negotiations on the issues of access to waters and quotas.

The agreement says: “We commit to recognising the importance of zonal attachment as a principle of international fisheries management applied by coastal states when discharging their obligations under UNCLOS and related instruments in relation to join management of shared stocks.”

The deal will come into force on January 1 when the UK has left the EU’s unpopular Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

The UK Government has repeatedly told the EU it wants to hold annual talks on quotas and access to British and European waters under any deal.

Lord Frost has said the zonal attachment system – which works out shares based on the percentage of fish species in each exclusive economic zone (EEZ) – is the way to go.

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But the bloc has slapped down this idea.

Instead, the EU wants to see a review take place in 10 years’ time.

Brussels had initially said it wanted the UK to grant the same level of access to EU boats after December 31, with only gradual change taking place.

But last week Mr Barnier showed signs of caving to pressure from Lord Frost when he said the EU would be willing to give between 15 and 18 percent of fish quota caught in UK waters by EU boats back to Britain under a deal.

His offer would be worth an estimated £105million (€117million).

Speaking to Express.co.uk, a UK Government source dismissed the offer as “derisory”.

On Monday German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU, warned time was running out to clinch a deal, adding that failure to reach an agreement would send a bad signal.

She named governance, a competitive level playing field, Britain’s desire for access to the EU energy market and the EU’s desire for continued access to fishing grounds as key sticking points.

While the EU does not want a deal at any price, a deal would be in everyone’s interests, she said. Failure to achieve a goal would not send a good signal to the world.

She said: “Britain and the EU share common values. If we failed to reach a deal, it would not send a good signal.”

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