Brexit warning: EU ordered to end ‘aberrant’ demands on fisheries as UK ‘won’t give in’
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Brexit negotiations have progressed slowly as both the UK and the European Union refuse to give into each other’s demands on key contentious issues, including fishing. The chief executive officer of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations Barrie Deas branded Brussels’ position on fisheries “aberrant” as he insisted Britain wants the bloc to agree to an “absolutely normal” future arrangement. Speaking to Bloomberg, Mr Deas said: “The EU has very little leverage on fish so what they’re trying to do is make an artificial link with trade, saying ‘no trade unless you surrender on fish.’
“I don’t think that’s going to work but I understand why they’re using it. What the UK is asking for is nothing extraordinary, it’s just the normal relationship between two coastal states that share stocks.
“The EU’s current relationship with Norway, for example, is exactly what we want. Annual negotiations for a fisheries agreement, access for each other’s fleets on negotiated terms, quota shares that reflect the resources in each other’s waters.
“Absolutely normal. It’s the EU that is aberrant on this, the EU is the outlier on fish.”
The Norway option was put forward as an alternative to the Chequers Deal former Prime Minister Theresa May proposed in November 2018.
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The UK would be required to apply to join the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) but membership would require the consent of the parliaments of the other member states, including Norway.
Oslo however voiced an opposition to letting the United Kingdom join EFTA, with Norwegian Conservative MP Heidi Nordby Lunde suggesting London would “mess it all up for us, the way you have messed it all up for yourselves.”
Ms Nordby Lunde added: “Norway’s arrangement with the EU works for us because we respect its laws and freedoms – not like Brexiters.
“The UK seems to be considering joining our EFTA family as a temporary solution – Norway for now – until it gets a better deal. It really surprises me that anyone would think Norwegians would find that appealing.”
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Mr Deas insisted UK fishermen have only been asking the British Government to ensure they “right the wrongs” the sector has suffered through since joining the bloc in 1974.
He continued: “It’s true that fishing was considered expendable in the 1970s and that led to 40 years of being trapped in the Common Fisheries Policy on disadvantageous terms.
“I think what’s different now is that fishing has really become symbolic of Brexit.
“Many of the Brexit trade issues, it’s going to be years down the line before we know what the real outcome will be, maybe decades.
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“But with fishing, we will know by the end of the year if we’ve got a good deal or a bad deal.”
He added: “It has an immediacy and also, within the Cabinet, within Parliament, and in the country at large, there is an understanding that the fishing industry got an extremely bad deal back in the 1970s and it’s an opportunity to right this wrong.”
Sources close to the negotiations have suggested progress has been made on several areas this week but noted division on the future of fisheries, enforcement of the agreement and state aid still persist.
UK negotiator Lord Frost is expected to reassure Number 10 a deal can still be secret if both sides committed to working extremely hard over the next few weeks.
EU leaders will be discussing the state of the talks during this month’s EU Summit in Brussels from Thursday before a phone call between European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Prime Minister Boris Johnson this weekend.
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