June 17, 2020

EU says sovereign UK has taken back control of its fishing waters
The European Union has accepted that Britain will take back control of its waters after the end of the Brexit transition period, the president of the European Commission said on Wednesday. Ursula von der Leyen said that all Brussels wanted was a long-term agreement over fishing rights that gave guarantees to EU boats that had fished UK waters for years. The latest hint at an EU willingness to compromise over its demand for a status quo fishing deal “under existing conditions” still ruled out the annual negotiations over fishing opportunities demanded by the UK. “No one questions the UK sovereignty over its own waters,” she told the European Parliament in Brussels, “but we asked for predictability and we asked for guarantees for fisherman and fisher Women who have been sailing in those waters for decades”. She said that Brussels was willing to be creative to find compromises in the trade negotiations after her meeting with Boris Johnson on Monday. Talks will intensify in July after months of deadlock. The former German defence minister was less conciliatory over the governance structure overseeing the free trade agreement, which the EU wants to also include fishing and foreign policy and security cooperation. A single dispute settlement system was vital for all aspects of the future agreement, she said in a signal the EU would not abandon that red line, despite the UK pushing for a different enforcement regime for each separate agreement. “Governance may sound like an issue for bureaucrats, it's not,” she said, “It is central for businesses and our private citizens both in the UK, and the European Union. It is crucial to ensure that what has been agreed is actually done.” Mrs von der Leyen told MEPs that the transition period would not be extended beyond the end of the year. Failure to reach a deal by then will mean both sides trading on less lucrative WTO terms. “We on our side have always been ready to grant extension, but it needs two to tango,” she said. “This means that we are now halfway through these negotiations with five months left to go but we're definitely not halfway through the work to reach an agreement with little time ahead of us,” she warned. “No one can say with certainty, where these negotiations will be at the end of the year. But I know for sure that we will have done everything to reach an agreement,” she added. Mrs von der Leyen also insisted on the need for level playing field guarantees and a role for the European Court of Justice “where it matters”, which the UK resists. . Mrs von der Leyen claimed that the EU’s demand for level playing field guarantees for state aid, tax, Labour rights and the environment were to ensure fair competition. The commitments, which are meant to prevent the UK undercutting EU standards, are rejected by Britain because they are more stringent than similar guarantees in EU trade deals with Japan and Canada. Brussels counters that the UK is closer to the EU market and is being offered a zero quota, zero tariff trade deal. “We're ready and willing to compete with British firms they're excellent and our firms are excellent too, but it cannot be a downward competition,” she said. “It should be a shared interest for the European Union and the UK to never slide backwards and always advance together towards higher standards.” Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, accused the UK of attempting to “cherry-pick” the advantage of membership of the bloc without the obligations. “It's up to the UK to choose what it wants, or whether it wants an agreement,” he said before warning that Brussels would not strike a deal “at any price”. “But I remain convinced, ladies and gentlemen, honorable members, such an agreement is possible for the long term,” he said.
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