UK’s Softens Negotiating Stance, Offers EU Three-Year Fishing ‘Transition Period’: Report

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Britain’s negotiators are said to have offered European fleets a “phase down” from 2021 to 2024, rather than the UK taking back full control of fishing waters at the end of the transition period on December 31st, 2020.

The offer, seen by The Guardian and reported on Wednesday, has been brought to the negotiating table in recent days as part of a series of proposals to entice Brussels into making a trade agreement this month.

The EU has so far refused to back down on its demands for continued fishing rights, with EU fishermen currently legally able to land more than 60 per cent of fish caught in the United Kingdom’s territorial waters. London has said that it wants to negotiate annual access to the waters from the end of the transition period, when the UK officially leaves the Common Fisheries Policy.

Reacting to the reports, the head of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations Barrie Deas said: “What we wouldn’t agree to is surrendering fishing rights in order to have a trade deal.

“There is no expectation within the UK fishing industry that the UK will back down on fisheries. If anything, the commitments that have been made to the industry are stronger now than when the negotiations started. We’ve been given clear and unequivocal commitments.”

“The fishing industry’s fear from the beginning has been that we would again be sold out as we were in the 1970s, and that fear hasn’t gone away,” Mr Deas said, adding that “in some ways [fishing] is a litmus test for Brexit.”

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has called reclaiming full fishing rights the “acid test” of a real Brexit, and reacted to the reported offer by saying: “An EU deal is getting closer as the UK backs down on fishing. A three-year transition on EU fleets is not what I campaigned for. We have already waited for four years.”

The offer has reportedly failed to move the two sides closer to a deal, however, with France being said to demand the continued current access to British waters in exchange for a free trade agreement.

Meanwhile, the UK has proved that a post-Brexit deal on fisheries can be completed on British terms also to the satisfaction of another party. UK negotiator David Frost confirmed on Wednesday that the UK had agreed on a fishing deal with non-EU country Norway, Britain’s first fishing deal as an independent coastal nation in over 40 years.

The deal provides a legal framework for Britain and a partner nation or bloc on quotas made through annual agreements — along the same lines that the UK has demanded from the EU.