Brexit standoff SOLVED: Fishing chief says dividing EU deal in two could kick-start talks

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Currently, negotiators are in a race against time to secure a Brexit deal due to red lines – despite over 600 pages already being agreed. It looks increasingly likely fishing – as well as the level playing field and governance – could scupper an entire deal.

But fishermen have argued the majority of details could be signed off now, allowing negotiators to fully focus on a fair fishing agreement.

During a Holyrood evidence session, the chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation claimed the situation was “very unbalanced in favour of the EU”.

Elspeth Macdonald said: “The European Union has made an artificial link between fishing opportunities and access to market, because it is significantly concerned about the loss of access to UK waters, and that is the leverage that it wishes to apply.

“It is unprecedented to link fisheries agreements to trade agreements; no other agreements work like that.”

Ms Macdonald said tying a trade agreement and a fishing deal together must be “strongly resisted”

She said: “The international norm for fisheries agreement is that they are standalone agreements about access to the other parties’ waters and fishing opportunities.

“That is very much what we seek. As I said, there is no precedent for a link to trade, and we think that it must be strongly resisted.

“It is also important to think about the balance in trade on seafood.

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“We have spoken a lot about imports and exports and potential impacts from tariff and non-tariff barriers.

“Trade in seafood between the UK and the EU is very much in the balance.”

She said the UK must not water down its demands in Brexit trade talks, which have now reached “make or break” stage, a Whitehall official told Express.co.uk this morning.

She highlighted three demands the UK must make, with the end of the transition period now just six weeks away.

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Ms MacDonald said: “First, the UK must control access to its fishing waters – its exclusive economic zone – which, again, is what the legal default position provides for.

“Secondly, we must have a fairer share of the resources that are in our waters because, at the moment, the situation is very unbalanced in favour of the EU fishing fleet and against the UK fleet.

“Thirdly, there must be annual negotiations on fisheries between the EU and the UK.”

She added: “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to redress a very unfair settlement for fishing under the common fisheries policy and to reinvigorate the Scottish fishing industry and the communities in which it is located.”

And she pointed to deals signed with Norway and Iceland as proof the EU could afford to be flexible in order to secure a deal.

She said: “The Norwegian fleet catches upwards of 80 per cent of all the fish that are caught in Norwegian waters.

“Norway has a fisheries agreement with the EU, which includes annual negotiations on access and exchanges of fishing opportunities.

“Norway is a good comparator.”

 

Ms McDonald highlighted the current position under the EU Common Fisheries Policy sees UK vessels catch only somewhere between “30 and 40 per cent” of all the fish caught in UK waters.

She said this was the “situation that we seek to redress.”

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