European and British flags. Brexit: on the way to an agreement. (BEN STANSALL / AFP)
At stake is the access of European fishermen to British waters : lhe negotiations concerned 650 million euros of products caught each year by the Union in English waters. Even if there is a compromise, these volumes will not be maintained, but European fishermen will have access to the British zone. In what proportions? According to what quotas? On which species? This is what is being discussed at the moment. For the French fishing industry, the United Kingdom is essential. British waters provide life 40% of Breton ships, a quarter of fishermen from Hauts-de-France, those from Normandy too. Without these opportunities, there will undoubtedly be bankruptcy filings, job cuts. For the English, this subject of fishing is above all political: the control of the waters symbolized a British sovereignty regained thanks to Brexit. Each therefore seeks to save the day and makes concessions.
Customs duties are also the sinews of war. Because without an agreement, British products will be hit with significant additional customs costs. If there is agreement, the Union will allow its former Member State access without customs duties or quotas to its market, which represents 500 million consumers. It is important for the English, they export 45% of their products to the continent. Europe remains their first commercial partner.
But for Europeans, there is no question of giving in without obtaining guarantees from London against unfair competition in terms of the environment, labor law or even taxation. No question of the English doing social dumping.
Everyone takes postures, but everyone knows that deep down there is a lot to lose. For the Union, a No deal would lead to a GDP loss of 0.75% by the end of 2022. On the British side, the loss would be four times greater, around 3% of GDP. On see it, very concretely, in recent days, the closure of Great Britain because of Covid-19 is causing real chaos, with thousands of truck drivers stranded, and shops robbed in the United Kingdom. This situation leads both camps, the English and the Europeans, to be a little less inflexible.