The EU and Britain are supposed to finalise their trade talks by the end of the post-Brexit transition period, which will last until the end of the year. The major points that the sides have so far failed to come to terms on are market rules and access to UK fishing waters.
France’s Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian has called on Britain “to come out of tactical postures and respect its commitments” regarding the post-Brexit talks, which have now been ongoing for almost a year since the UK divorced from the European Union on 31 January 2020.
The French top diplomat argued that sometimes “no deal” is better than a “bad one”, stressing that France, part of the 27-strong European bloc, won’t “be trapped into” the latter.
Le Drian went on to note that fisheries, one of the stumbling blocks in the bilateral talks on post-Brexit terms, will by no means be an “adjustment variable” during the negotiations. Addressing Britain’s arguments on the matter, the minister said their “overtures” are still “insufficient”.
“The outcome is uncertain. British overtures remain insufficient on the most sensitive matters,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told a parliamentary hearing, as fishing quotas continue to be totemic issues for both Britain and France.
A fishing boat at work in the English Channel, off the southern coast of England, Saturday Feb. 1, 2020. The fishing industry is predicted to be one of the main subjects for negotiations between the UK and Europe, after the UK left the European Union on Friday.
On Tuesday, 24 November, the United Kingdom’s Fisheries Bill received Royal Assent after 10 months in Parliament, thereby making it the Fisheries Act, the country’s government has confirmed. The document is the UK’s first major domestic fisheries legislation in almost 40 years.
“This is a huge moment for the UK fishing industry. This is the first domestic fisheries legislation in nearly 40 years, and we will now take back control of our waters out to 200 nautical miles or the median line”, Environment Secretary George Eustice lauded the development, which has now placed the UK on a firm legal footing as the post-Brexit transition period draws to its end.
Apart from the act, the UK has now worked out new bilateral fisheries arrangements, including a deal with Norway and the Faroe Islands, as well as memoranda of understanding with Greenland and Iceland. Through such arrangements, the UK is expected to be able to negotiate future sustainable fishing opportunities with other coastal states in the region.
A flotilla of fishing boats sail by the Gateshead Millennium bridge
On 31 December 2020, the UK is due to withdraw from the European Union’s Single Market and Customs Union, thereby marking the end of the so-called transition period that began in early 2020 with Britain’s formal withdrawal from the bloc.
Issues such as fishing quotas and market terms, including a level playing field, have remained major talking points in the latest rounds of discussions held between London and Brussels. Britain, which boasts abundant fishing waters, calls for annual negotiations on separate European countries’ quotas, while the EU favours a longer-term perspective for the industry.