Blog: Britain has moved to break fisheries deadlock in Brexit trade talks – EU sources –

* Trade talks between EU and Britain have all but stalled

* Fisheries is one of the main areas of disagreement

* Chief negotiators held talks in London last week

BRUSSELS, Sept 15 (Reuters) – Britain offered tentative
concessions on fisheries in trade talks with the European Union
last week, two diplomatic sources told Reuters, just as London
was publicly threatening to breach the terms of its divorce deal
with the bloc.

The sources, who did not attend last week’s talks between
the sides’ chief negotiators but were briefed on them by the EU
negotiating team, described the offer as a possible bid by
London to overcome a key obstacle to a new trade deal from 2021.

They said it also suggested London might still be open to
clinching an agreement despite a crisis in Brexit talks over
Britain’s Internal Market bill which, if passed by parliament as
proposed, would breach Britain’s international legal obligations
as well as the EU divorce treaty.

Britain formally left the EU in January but the two sides
are seeking a new trade deal before a status-quo transition
arrangement ends in December.

The talks have all but stalled over disagreements on fishing
rights, state aid rules and other guarantees of fair market
competition, and ways to solve future disputes.

But the two EU sources said London had floated two ideas on
fisheries which were a departure from Britain’s position so far
that it must take control of its territorial waters in the
Channel from next year.

“The UK definitely seems to be coming around on this, they
seem to be moving cautiously towards some opening on fisheries
in the technical talks,” said one of the sources.

The second source reported a “tentative, modest” move on
fisheries after Britain this summer pushed a more rigid line,
which the EU has rejected.

Asked to comment, a British government spokesperson did not
address the main point directly but said: “Our position on fish
is reasonable and straightforward.”

“We want a simple, separate fisheries framework agreement
which reflects our rights under international law and which
provides for annual negotiations over access and sharing
opportunities based on the scientific principle of zonal

“This is a fairer, more modern and scientific approach that
is already the basis for the EU’s existing fisheries agreement
with Norway and respects each party as an independent coastal
state,” the spokesperson said.


Britain has said it will become an “independent coastal
nation” after the transition period ends, enabling it to control
its own waters, and who fishes in them, and to increase the
British catch.

Brexit supporters see fisheries as an important symbol of
sovereignty and say fishing grounds in British waters should be
primarily for British fishing crews. The EU says it wants a
“fair deal” that gives access for boats from the bloc’s member
states like France and the Netherlands.

Failure to agree on trade would be expected to lead to trade
barriers being erected between Britain and the EU, the world’s
largest trading bloc.
Officials on both sides have said there has been some
progress on technical aspects of the talks on fisheries,
including on quota sharing and a list of stocks, but London says
the EU has not accepted that Britain will become an independent
coastal state.

Under one proposal described by the EU sources, the sides
could agree to a “phasing-out mechanism” for fish quotas that
would increase Britain’s share in time, rather than overnight
from Jan. 1, 2021.

Under the second idea, EU vessels around the Channel islands
including Jersey and Guernsey could be exempted from
restrictions that would be tighter than those now in place on
fishing in British waters up to 12 nautical miles from shore.

Britain wants to be responsible for managing its territorial
waters out to 12 nautical miles from shore, out to 200 nautical
miles in a so-called exclusive economic zone, or out to a median
line between the British coast and the costs of other states.

(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, Additional reporting by
Elizabeth Piper in London, Editing by John Chalmers and Timothy

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