Britain set to reject EU proposal to keep status quo on fisheries for 12 months

Keir Starmer indicates if a deal comes before House of Commons, Labour will back it

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, who is self-isolating, speaks remotely to the UK parliament. Photograph: Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament/AFP via Getty

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, who is self-isolating, speaks remotely to the UK parliament. Photograph: Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament/AFP via Getty

 

 Britain is set to reject the European Union’s proposal to maintain the status quo on fisheries for 12 months after a no-deal Brexit, Downing Street has said.

Prime minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said Britain would look closely at the proposal, along with other EU contingency plans published on Thursday, but suggested it was unacceptable.

“We would never accept arrangements and access to UK fishing waters which are incompatible with our status as an independent coastal state,” he said.

Paymaster general Penny Mordaunt told the House of Commons that Britain and the EU remained far apart on the issues of fisheries, the level playing field and governance after Mr Johnson’s meeting in Brussels with EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday.

 “We are working tirelessly to get a deal, but we cannot accept one at any cost. We cannot accept a deal that would compromise the control of our money, laws, borders and fish. The only deal that is possible is one that is compatible with our sovereignty and takes back control of our laws, trade and waters,” Ms Mordaunt said.

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Conservative MPs encouraged Mr Johnson to hold firm as the talks are scheduled to continue until Sunday but the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) warned a deal was vital to protect businesses, jobs and living standards. A House of Lords committee said that Britain was not ready for the end of the post-Brexit transition period on December 31st, even if there is a deal.

In a letter to cabinet office minister Michael Gove, the EU goods sub-committee said that necessary technological, physical and welfare arrangements to avoid major disruption to the movement of goods were not in place.

“Our committee is very sceptical that the necessary physical customs infrastructure, both at ports and inland, will be ready. The government has not prepared enough for the realities of moving goods across the Channel. It has been too optimistic and this has been reflected in weak and undeveloped contingency plans at every level,” the committee’s chair Sandip Verma said.

“How aware businesses are of what they need to do to prepare for post-transition is the great unknown. This lack of awareness worries us because the smooth movement of goods requires every vehicle to have completed the necessary customs checks in advance.

“The welfare and safety of drivers, which must be top priority, has simply not been properly thought through. Has the government actually considered how and where drivers, who may be stuck in long queues, will answer the call of nature, or take their legally required breaks?”  

Labour leader Keir Starmer said the remaining differences between Britain and the EU were capable of resolution, urging the prime minister to “get on and deliver” an agreement. He indicated that if a deal comes before the House of Commons, Labour will back it.

“We will look at it, and we will act in the national interest,” he said.

“But on a straight choice between no deal and deal, then deal is clearly in the national interest.”