Negotiating sources on both sides of the English Channel have admitted that UK-EU trade talks could collapse in June over fishing and regulations.
The British government revealed in February that if sufficient progress is not made on a trade deal with the EU by June, then London’s negotiators would pull out of talks and the government would spend the rest of the transition period preparing to move the UK onto World Trade Organization (WTO) terms with the bloc.
Following the two parties recommencing negotiations since the coronavirus, one British source told The Times: “If they [the EU] continue to insist on their position on a so-called level playing field and on continuing the common fisheries policy, for example, we are never going to accept that.”
The “level playing field” relates to the European Commission’s position that the UK must continue to abide by regulations on the environment, taxation, and government subsidies so that Brexit Britain does not represent a competitive risk to the EU.
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said last week that the UK could not both refuse to extend the transition period and refuse to surrender on regulatory alignment and fishing. The EU demands that France and other member-states have continued access to Britain’s lucrative fishing waters.
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— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) April 20, 2020
Sources speaking to The Telegraph have said that the EU wants the “existing conditions” set out by the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) maintained. EU fishermen currently have rights to access more than 60 per cent of all landings by weight in British waters. By fish, the quota varies, however, with the French getting 84 per cent of English Channel cod compared to the UK’s paltry nine per cent.
The UK’s source told the newspaper that unless the EU shifted on fishing demands, negotiations would be over by the summer.
“There are some fundamentals that we’re not going to change, nor going to move on. Because they are not so much negotiating positions as they’re sort of what an independent state does,” the source told The Telegraph.
“An independent state has independent control over coastal waters… what we are wanting now is an EU understanding that we are not going to subordinate our laws to them in any areas,” they added.
The source said that if the EU does not submit to the UK sovereign rights, then preparing for a WTO relationship “will become the primary focus of effort”.
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— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) April 27, 2020
However, one of the government’s senior ministers admitted that the UK is not working on any contingency arrangements for a WTO relationship, weakening the UK’s negotiating hand in revealing that the government is not serious in preparing the country to be a fully independent nation.
Michael Gove had said on Monday: “We don’t have any plans to stand up operation Yellowhammer [government ‘no-deal’ planning] again because we are confident we will secure an agreement.”
Brussels’ interpretation of Mr Gove’s remarks was unsurprising, with one diplomat confident that the UK will blink first.
The diplomatic source told The Guardian: “If No 10 doesn’t change its negotiating approach, we will very likely be looking at a no-deal scenario. So we take this statement [on the positive chances of a deal by Michael Gove] as a welcome sign that the UK will change its negotiating stance.”