Brexit: Abandon Fishing Demands or No Deal, Boris Tells the EU

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson returns to 10 Downing Street in London on December 8, 2020 after chairing the weekly cabinet meeting held at the nearby Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. - Britain on Tuesday hailed a turning point in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, as it begins the …
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to abandon demands for continued control over Britain’s lucrative fishing waters, or he will walk away from the Brexit negotiations without a deal.

Prime Minister Johnson confirmed in a statement on Thursday following a call with the head of the EU’s executive arm that negotiations were “now in a serious situation”. He said that it was “very likely” that the United Kingdom would leave the bloc’s institutions on New Year’s Eve without a deal, moving on to a World Trade Organization (WTO) relationship, or what Mr Johnson calls, “Australia-style terms”.

Reports from earlier in the week suggested that British negotiators had capitulated to Brussels on areas such as the “level playing field”, where Britain would prevent itself from becoming a competitor to the EU on the world’s trading and services stage by submitting to its rules and regulations.

Thursday’s statement implied that such concessions were made, saying that “we were making every effort to accommodate reasonable EU requests on the level playing field, but even though the gap had narrowed some fundamental areas remained difficult”.

However, “on fisheries he [Johnson] stressed that the UK could not accept a situation where it was the only sovereign country in the world not to be able to control access to its own waters for an extended period and to be faced with fisheries quotas which hugely disadvantaged its own industry,” the press release said, according to Guido Fawkes.

“The EU’s position in this area was simply not reasonable and if there was to be an agreement it needed to shift significantly.

“The Prime Minister repeated that little time was left. He said that, if no agreement could be reached, the UK and the EU would part as friends, with the UK trading with the EU on Australian-style terms.”

Australia does not have a comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU, and so deals with it largely on standard World Trade Organization (WTO) terms.

There are just two weeks to go before the end of the year. Talks continue on Friday, and the European Parliament, which must ratify any deal agreed between London and Brussels, set Sunday as the deadline to see a final agreement if they were to sign it off by the end of 2020.

Senior Cabinet minister Michael Gove had told the Brexit Select Committee that the “most likely outcome” was no deal, which would leave the United Kingdom free not only of fishing restrictions but oppressive EU rules that could stop the country flourishing as an independent nation.

Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott, now Britain’s international trade envoy, told LBC on Sunday that if there is no deal by the end of the 2020 “transition” period that will be the EU’s fault, not Britain’s.

He also stressed that the United Kingdom will prosper under no deal.

“Britain is the world’s fifth-largest economy. No country on earth has had as much impact on the modern world as this one, when you think of the world’s common language, the mother of parliaments, the Industrial Revolution, the emancipation of minorities. No country on earth has been more influential than Britain, and if any country on earth is more than capable of standing on its own two feet, it’s this one,” Mr Abbott told LBC.

The former Australian premier observed, however, that “part of the problem from the very beginning of the whole EU enterprise has been this declinism and defeatism, which has been too widespread amongst the British establishment, even to this day.

“I fear even now there are many people in the British establishment who would like Brexit to be more difficult than it needs to be, because they never wanted Britain to leave,” he said, and then referenced those who former prime minister Theresa May called “the citizens of nowhere”, who want Britain to be part of a European superstate.

He then made a plea to British citizens, saying: “People of Britain, do not underestimate yourselves. You are more than capable of making your way in the world, because you have shaped the world in a way that no other country has.”

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