Brexit plot by Brussels to continue exploiting UK’s fishing waters after exit day exposed
European Union officials are primed to insist on a “direct link” between fisheries and the free trade of goods when negotiations begin after January 31. Boris Johnson will be warned that even the most basic trade agreement must allow EU vessels access to UK waters. Early details of the bloc’s negotiating strategy emerged from a planning meeting of diplomats and officials this afternoon in Brussels.
They are preparing to double down their position after Mr Johnson pledged to regain control of the UK’s fishing waters during a meeting with European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen.
After last week’s meeting, a Downing Street spokesman said: “He said the UK would also maintain control of UK fishing waters.”
“Continued reciprocal access” for European trawlermen in UK waters is listed as one of the bloc’s “reaching objectives”, the behind-closed-doors meeting was told.
A negotiating document, published after the meeting, said the “unprecedented scale and scope requires a stable framework for cooperation and clearly defined shared principles and objectives for fisheries management”.
The bloc wants to prioritise the socio-economic repercussions to coastal communities as part of the pact.
EU officials describe this as a “standard clause that protects the livelihood of fishermen” and is included in most of the bloc’s trade agreements.
Fisheries is widely expected to be a key political battleground when negotiations officially begin after Brexit.
The fresh move to include a direct link between fisheries and trade in goods is seen as the bloc hardening on the stance agreed in the political declaration on the future agreement.
It will mount pressure on the Prime Minister to capitulate in the hunt to agree a trade deal with Brussels before the end of the year.
Meanwhile Mrs von der Leyen told MEPs at the European Parliament in Strasbourg that Mr Johnson will also have to consider allowing free movement of people to continue.
The eurocrat said the choice will become a precondition for a deal that allows for the frictionless trade of goods.
“It’s the UK’s choice to decide on how close or how distant they want to be from the EU,” she said.
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“You cannot have no free movement for people and then expect to have free movement for goods, capital and services. It’s either all four have free movement or none of this is possible.”
She added: “It’s the old proverb: You cannot have the cake and eat it at the same time.”
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said the Northern Ireland border agreement “foresees checks and controls for goods entering the island of Ireland”.
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“I look forward to constructive cooperation with UK authorities to ensure all provisions are respected and made operational,” he added.
His intervention comes after Mr Johnson insisted there will be “no circumstances” in which goods coming between Northern Ireland and Great Britain would be subject to checks.
On a visit to Stormont, the Prime Minister added goods travelling from Britain to Northern Ireland would be subject to checks if they were destined for Ireland, and if his Government had failed to negotiate a zero-tariff trade deal.
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