Germany Demands UK Submit over Fishing, Competition Rules for Brexit Deal

German Minister of State for Europe at the Federal Foreign Office, Michael Roth gives a press conference after the General Affairs Council at the European Council Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on September 22, 2020. (Photo by Aris Oikonomou / various sources / AFP) (Photo by ARIS OIKONOMOU/AFP via Getty Images)
ARIS OIKONOMOU/AFP via Getty Images

Germany’s Europe minister has told the United Kingdom it must compromise on the ‘level playing field’ and fishing to secure a free trade agreement with the European Union.

Ministers from the bloc’s 27 member states are meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday to discuss a UK-EU trade deal ahead of the crunch European summit on Thursday.

Germany’s Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth said, according to Reuters, that while he hopes Brussels and London can agree on a deal, the bloc is ready to trade with Brexit Britain on World Trade Organization (WTO) terms from January 1st, 2021, when the UK leaves the transition period.

Remarking that talks were at a “critical stage”, the German minister said that his and other EU nations “expect substantial progress by our friends in the United Kingdom in key areas: in particular on governance, ‘level playing field’ and fisheries”.

There has so far been stalemate over these issues, with the EU wanting any future deal to be arbitrated by its own European Court of Justice (ECJ). Brussels also demands the UK abide by ‘level playing field’ rules to stop it becoming a competitor to the bloc in the region, and for EU member states to retain longterm and significant access to British fishing waters. The UK has maintained that submission in any of these three areas would constitute a failure to regain control of Britain’s laws and territory.

Some states, such as France, as are more hardline on demanding continued access to UK fishing waters. France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune also said on Tuesday that the bloc has to remain “very firm” in negotiations, particularly on fisheries and the level playing field.

Currently, EU fishing boats can land more than 60 per cent of the fish caught in the territorial waters surrounding the United Kingdom, with Spain and France demanding no change to that arrangement in exchange for a UK-EU free trade agreement.

The UK wants to arrange deals annually, based on zonal attachment where the UK reserves ownership of the fish in her waters. France’s fishing minister Annick Girardin said on Monday the UK’s plan to take back control of her own waters as “unacceptable”.

Ms Girardin described British fish as the EU’s property, continuing: “We have laid out red lines: access to fishing grounds, quotas and the species that we fish today. Europeans must preserve their resources and their access.”

Prime Minister Johnson is facing his Brexit test on Thursday, after pledging it will be the turning point for deciding whether to go WTO or strike a deal with the bloc.

Brexit Party leader predicted that there will be a deal struck in time for the end of the year, but that it likely will contain compromises that will fail to please some Brexiteers.

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