Brexit talks continue as fishing rights remain a ‘bone of contention’

UK’s foreign secretary says ‘there’s a deal to be done’ as two sides meet in London

UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab said this could be the last week of ‘substantive’ negotiations as he urged Brussels to recognise the ‘point of principle’ on Britain’s control of its waters. Photograph: Jeff Overs/BBC/AFP.

UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab said this could be the last week of ‘substantive’ negotiations as he urged Brussels to recognise the ‘point of principle’ on Britain’s control of its waters. Photograph: Jeff Overs/BBC/AFP.

 

Fishing rights remain an “outstanding major bone of contention” in post-Brexit trade talks with the European Union but there is a deal to be done, the UK’s foreign secretary has said.

Dominic Raab said this could be the last week of “substantive” negotiations as he urged Brussels to recognise the “point of principle” on Britain’s control of its waters.

He told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “I do think we’re in a reasonable position - there’s a deal to be done.

“If you look really at what the outstanding issues are, of course the level playing field, but it feels like there is progress towards greater respect for what the UK position was.

“On fishing there’s a point of principle: as we leave the EU we’re going to be an independent... coastal state and we’ve got to be able to control our waters.”

Mr Raab said the UK recognised the impact on other countries, but said: “I think the answer is ‘can the EU accept that point of principle which comes with us leaving the political club?”.

Progress

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has been in London this weekend for talks with his UK counterpart David Frost, but Downing Street said there remains a lot to do at a late hour.

Arriving at the talks on Sunday morning, Mr Barnier told reporters: “Work continues, even on a Sunday.”

Progress is understood to have been made across many areas, yet significant gaps remain on the EU’s access to UK fishing waters when the transition period ends on December 31st.

Reports last week suggested that Mr Barnier recently said the EU could accept a 15-18 per cent cut in its share of fishing rights in UK waters, but British officials were said to have immediately rejected the offer.

A UK Government source said: “These figures are risible, and the EU side know full well that we would never accept this.

“There seems to be a failure from the Commission to internalise the scale of change needed as we become an independent nation.”

The UK has repeatedly said it is prepared to leave the transition period without a deal if the EU fails to move, and talks have been deadlocked for months over fishing rights and other issues.

They include the governance of any deal and the “level playing field” conditions aimed at preventing unfair competition by cutting standards or increasing state subsidies.

But ahead of what Number 10 said could be the final week of talks, a source close to the negotiations said: “Over the coming days we will continue to negotiate with creativity and intensity.

“We hope that the EU will come with some fresh thinking because what we’ve seen so far doesn’t cut it. They must understand that we are not going to sell out our sovereignty.”

Mr Barnier arrived in London on Friday night telling reporters that he would continue to work with “patience and determination” to reach an agreement.

Face-to-face negotiations were paused earlier this month after one of the EU team tested positive for coronavirus, but in-person discussions resumed on Saturday morning.

-PA