UK makes concessions on fishing as hopes of Brexit trade deal grow

The Brexit pizza pact? UK makes concessions on fishing rights as negotiators haggle late into the night over takeaway with deal possible TODAY – but sources warn the sides are STILL some way apart

  • Brexit trade talks fuelled by takeaway pizza continued late into night yesterday
  • There is now growing speculation a deal between UK and EU could be imminent 
  • Two sides are now seriously haggling over the crunch issue of fishing rights 

Brexit trade talks fuelled by takeaway pizza lasted long into the night yesterday amid growing hopes a deal between the UK and the EU could be imminent. 

A large stack of pizza boxes was delivered to the two negotiating teams as talks dragged on and they tried to break the deadlock on crunch issues.

The two sides are still split on post-Brexit fishing rights, the so-called ‘level playing field’ on rules and on the future governance of the deal. 

Fishing is viewed by the UK as the biggest problem area but there are now signs of movement on the issue, with Britain and the bloc now said to be seriously haggling over fish quotas.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, said yesterday that talks were reaching a ‘make-or-break moment’, with the possibility an agreement could be finalised this evening or tomorrow.

In an attempt to break the deadlock, Mr Barnier said Boris Johnson had lowered his demands by asking to get back only 60 per cent of the fish that EU boats currently catch in British waters, down from 80 per cent.

At the same time, the EU has signalled it will give in to the Prime Minister’s request to negotiate fishing quotas annually in the same way Brussels does with Norway. 

A large stack of takeaway pizza was delivered to negotiators late last night amid growing hopes of a post-Brexit trade deal being struck between the UK and the EU

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, said yesterday that talks were reaching a ‘make-or-break moment’

Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said this morning he believed there is a ‘good chance that we can get a deal across the line in the next few days’ as he warned there will be ‘no extra time’. 

Despite growing optimism that a deal could now be sight, UK officials told Politico ‘we are still going’ and it is ‘still not clear if we are going to get there’.  

During video conference calls with European diplomats and MEPs yesterday, Mr Barnier said there was still no guarantee a trade deal will be agreed.

‘I do not sincerely know if we can reach a deal,’ the senior European Commission official told them. 

‘We are quickly approaching a make-or-break moment in the Brexit talks. The next hours and days will be decisive.’

Downing Street said last night that Mr Johnson remains ‘optimistic’ that Britain can secure a post-Brexit trade agreement with Brussels. 

His press secretary Allegra Stratton added: ‘The talks are right now ongoing and he has greatest confidence in [UK chief negotiator] David Frost and the team.

‘He is optimistic but he has also always said that he is confident and comfortable that we would be okay without a deal.

‘If a deal can be struck that is all to the good but he is also confident that we can move towards trading on what he calls Australia terms.’

A failure to agree and implement a trade deal before the end of the ‘standstill’ post-Brexit transition period would force the EU and the UK to trade on basic World Trade Organisation terms from January 1 which would mean tariffs being imposed on goods. 

EU diplomats conceded last night that even if the two sides do manage to reach an agreement, the ratification process may not be plain sailing, with the possibility that individual member states could still attempt to block it.

‘We need to find a compromise where the UK can say they have won, and the EU can say they haven’t lost,’ said one source close to the talks. 

Rows over access to British waters have been one of the most significant remaining stumbling blocks in the negotiations during the past few weeks.

Boris Johnson is said to have lowered his demands on post-Brexit fishing rights in a bid to break the deadlock

At present, the Common Fisheries Policy dictates how much British fishermen can catch and where, and fishermen have often complained they do not get a fair share of what is caught in UK waters.

According to EU sources, Mr Barnier said Downing Street is now asking to get back 60 per cent of the fish currently caught by European boats compared with 80 per cent previously. The EU has so far offered the repatriation of around 15 to 18 per cent of catches.

Fishing accounts for just 0.12 per cent of the UK’s GDP but is seen as hugely symbolic in Brexit talks.

British fisherman argue their industry was sacrificed to secure the country’s place in the European Economic Community in 1973.

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