Ursula von der Leyen and Boris Johnson spoke this evening to try and give the negotiations a shove. The statement that the Commission president has released after their call makes clear that fishing is now the biggest obstacle to a deal. She says ‘big differences remain to be bridged, particularly on fisheries. Bridging them will be very challenging’.
The Number 10 statement is more downbeat. In a clear attempt to pile on pressure, it declares that ‘Time was very short and it now looked very likely that agreement would not be reached unless the EU position changed substantially.’ It says 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 EU’s position in this area was simply not reasonable and if there was to be an agreement it needed to shift significantly.’
So it now appears that an EU move on fish is necessary to unlock a deal. This is best seen not as one negotiation but two. First, the UK/EU negotiation and second the intra-EU negotiation on how to compensate those EU states – France, Belgium, Holland and Denmark – most hit by the UK regaining sovereignty over its fishing grounds.
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