EU Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier believes Christmas Eve to be the new deadline in EU-UK talks
EU Chief Negotiator Michael Barnier believes Christmas Eve could be the new deadline for brokering a deal in the EU-UK trade talks.
Yesterday, Michel Barnier addressed EU ambassadors it is reported that he is of the opinion this will give the EU’s legal service time to draw up a letter to send to the UK seeking provisional application of the treaty from 01 January.
Officials will need four days at a minimum to draft a letter seeking provisional application of the treaty because the European Parliament has said it is too late this year for any plenary session to ratify the treaty on time for 01 January 2021.
It is believed by the EU team that they have made significant progress and believe that an agreement could be signed before Christmas.
Despite this, series divisions still lie between the two blocs, mainly on fisheries with some details yet to be ironed out on the ‘level-playing field’ and governance.
On fisheries, Member States say the UK’s proposal which would see the EU fishing fleet handing 35% of the catch value caught in British waters back to the UK does not count pelagic species and that is a serious problem. The UK is proposing to divide the pelagic fisheries to the informal independent coastal state forum which includes Norway Iceland and the Faroe Islands. The problem for EU boats is they would lose a stable outlook on access and would have to negotiate access annually. The EU is also afraid the UK might not stick to agreements and operate outside agreements like Iceland.
Barnier told ambassadors the UK was still looking for a three-year transition while the EU would be only willing to accept six-years, although some member states felt that was not long enough as the French rumoured to be seeking a 10-year period.
Irish national broadcaster, RTÉ has reported that the general feeling is that the UK offer does not give EU fishing communities stability and predictability and it excludes the six to 12 nautical mile zone which of the EU fleets in the North Sea and English Channel would like to keep.
If pelagic stocks were to be negotiated separately countries like Ireland and Denmark would suffer disproportionately as they carry out most of their fishing for mackerel in UK waters.
The EU Member States remain united, on the face of it, on the issue of fisheries even though it is believed that some Member States would like the EU negotiating team to soften their stance on some after issues in fisheries in order to push through a deal.
Barnier has reportedly told ambassadors that the image of Brexit in Europe on 01 January would be angry protesting fishermen. “How would you explain to people we’re going to give them the EU interconnection rights in the North Sea to the EU grid, plus at the same time our boats aren’t allowed to catch fish in you key waters?” he said.
There are many other areas of the talks that has not been resolved, including rules on the origin for electric batteries UK participation in Erasmus, and an EU demand for non-discrimination clause. This would mean the UK could not discriminate against any goods or service from a Member State no matter what their relationship is with that Member States.