We understand that we are now approaching the end of the endgame for Brexit negotiations and it’s about fish. It was always going to be about fish.
Michel Barnier is now out of quarantine and able to come back to the UK for talks. However, a couple of days ago he said he would not do this unless David Frost, chief negotiator for the UK, was able to move on negotiations within 48 hours. Yet today we have learned that this evening he will arrive, having talked fish to various EU national ministers. Does this mean the UK shifted? We can hope but, as Peter Foster says, the EU will never walk away.
Charles Grant, director, Centre for European Reform, who usually knows what is happening, has tweeted that real progress has been made on state aid, a level playing field and dispute settlement. The bad news is fish.
Someone else who has inside information is Tony Connelly of RTE. His tweets today inform us that Barnier will propose that between 15 per cent and 18 per cent of the fish quota caught in UK waters by European Union (EU) member state fleets will be restored to the UK. “EU vessels catch on average €650 million in quota each year from UK waters, meaning Barnier’s offer would be worth up to €117m.”
Johnson may not be very pleased with this proposal and there are several suggestions flying around that he and Macron might need a very public meeting in order to compromise, whilst showing that they are standing up for the rights of their own fishing communities.
Another essential issue to be discussed, but not by Barnier and Frost, is Northern Ireland. Whilst it was agreed to and signed in the Withdrawal Agreement, Johnson’s government has backtracked since, causing outrage. Neverthess, Connelly tells us that “EU and UK officials are expressing confidence that an overarching agreement on the outstanding issues of the Northern Ireland Protocol can be agreed in the coming weeks.”
So is it all plain sailing now? Well, we can never be sure in whose interests Vote Leave is negotiating. “The UK is a serial offender regarding Brexit, trade, transparency and freedom of information,” according to OpenDemocracy. In other words, something ‘fishy’ could be going on.
Also, whilst Grant is informed it’s all about fish, others such as Foster disagree saying it’s also still about the rules for free and fair competition.
We understand that within the deal there is the possibility for delays on the finalisation of some chapters, such as fishing, or the possibility of interim measures. There is also the possibility of a ‘ratification period’ if necessary, which would effectively extend the transition period with regard to the single market if a deal is signed. Another possibility is that the deal could come into effect before ratification has taken place. So, a few more days could be used productively.
And, if the government is interested in the people of this country, it will negotiate the deal and finalise it very quickly. After all there will be lorry parks in Kent and bad news for business regardless of the outcome. But every part of the UK now wants a comprehensive deal with the EU because it will be so much worse without one.
We should learn more within the next few days.
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