the dispute over fishing blocks negotiations between London and Brussels

Days go by, but the outcome of the negotiations between the British and the Europeans to try to find a post-Brexit agreement remains uncertain, as the deadline of December 31 approaches. “The differences remain the same”, said a European source early Saturday evening.

Main sticking point: the question of fishing. Although of low economic weight compared to the tens of billions at stake in a possible free trade agreement, fishing has political and social importance for several Member States, in particular France and the Netherlands.

Faced with Europeans who have been fishing for ages in British waters, the United Kingdom intends to regain control and has made it a symbol of its independence after its divorce from the continent. The European Fisheries Alliance (EUFA) has expressed great concern over a deal that could “Sound the death knell for a large part of an industry which has contributed so much to sustaining coastal communities in nine Member States”, in a press release.

At the heart of the negotiations are the sharing of the some 650 million euros caught each year by the EU in British waters and the length of the adjustment period for European fishermen. For the British, fishery products in European waters represent around 110 million euros.

Brussels would propose to give up about 20% of the 650 million after a transition period of seven years, London claiming 60% over a period of 3 years, according to European sources. Figures that do not “Stop moving”, according to another European source.

The Europeans have said over and over again that there will be no uncompromising agreement on fisheries.

A very tight schedule

The negotiations are taking place under ever-increasing pressure on the timetable: the agreement must be concluded before the United Kingdom – which officially left the EU on January 31 – definitively abandons the European single market and the customs union on January 31. December 31 at 11:00 p.m. GMT or midnight on the 1ster January 2021, Paris time.

The European Parliament warned it wanted a deal from here ” Sunday [20 décembre] midnight “, otherwise it will not be able to examine and ratify it so that it can enter into force on 1er January. Even in the event of an agreement on Sunday evening, the European environmental group has already protested against the lack of time to examine the agreement.

The French Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, however, did not rule out on Saturday a continuation of the talks beyond the weekend. “It’s okay not to say listen, it’s sunday night we stop, and so i sacrifice everything(…) We will not do that, because what is at stake are entire sectors, such as fishing, these are the conditions of competition for our companies over time ”, he argued on France Inter.

An agreement reached in the very last days of December could enter into force provisionally, an option which appears to be favored by member states but which Parliament opposes.

Expected disruptions in case of return of customs controls

On the other hand, the horizon has cleared on the two other subjects which hampered the negotiations – a level playing field and the governance of the agreement to settle differences.

The EU refuses to see the emergence of a deregulated economy at its doorstep which would engage in unfair competition towards its companies by not respecting its environmental, social and fiscal standards or its very strict regime on public aid.

As both sides of the Channel prepare for the return of customs controls after the breach, a British parliamentary report has warned of insufficient preparation by the UK, worrying about expected disruptions at ports and repercussions on security.

And from January 1, travelers or truck drivers from the UK arriving in the EU will no longer be able to bring meat or milk products, such as a ham and cheese sandwich, to avoid introduction of infectious animal diseases, the UK government has warned.

Without a trade agreement, trade between the EU and London will be carried out according to the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO), synonymous with customs duties or quotas, with serious consequences for economies already shaken by the pandemic.

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The World with AFP


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