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The standoff over fishing between the United Kingdom and the European Union threatens the outcome of negotiations which resume on Sunday to find a post-Brexit agreement, just ten days before final separation.
<p>Will the post-Brexit deal take place? As negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union resume on Sunday, December 20, the standoff over fisheries threatens the outcome of the talks.
There will be no deal unless there is a “substantial change” in Brussels’ positions in the coming days, a British source warned in a media statement on Saturday evening.
A deal needs to be struck before the UK – which officially left the EU on January 31, 2020 – leaves the European single market and customs union on December 31 at 11 p.m.
In addition to the pressure of the calendar for Europeans, that of their parliament. MEPs call for a conclusion of negotiations “Sunday at midnight” to examine the agreement and ratify it so that it enters into force on 1is January.
But this deadline, like many others in the Brexit saga, is likely to be exceeded in the face of the risk of a “No deal”, given its heavy economic consequences.
>> Read also on France24.com: Brexit: fishing, the eternal poison of relations between the EU and the United Kingdom
An agreement reached in extremis could enter into force provisionally, an option which seems to be favored by the Member States, with a posteriori ratification by the European Parliament.
“The differences remain the same”
The French Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, did not rule out a continuation of talks on Saturday after the weekend.
“It’s okay not to say ‘listen, it’s Sunday night, we’re stopping, and so I’m sacrificing everything’,” he argued.
Despite intense negotiations on fishing, a compromise is struggling to emerge and “the differences remain the same”, said a European source on Saturday evening.
However, the Europeans have conditioned access without customs duty or quota to their immense market to the settlement of the fishing issue. A stake far from being negligible for the British, since the EU is their main trading partner.
A market representing 650 million euros
For several Member States, France and the Netherlands in the lead, fishing has a strong political and social dimension, despite its low economic weight. On the other side of the Channel, the control of its waters symbolizes a British sovereignty regained thanks to Brexit.
Negotiations focus on sharing the roughly 650 million euros caught each year by the EU in British waters and the length of the adjustment period for European fishermen. For the British, fishery products in European waters represent around 110 million euros.
Brussels would offer to give up about 20% of the 650 million after a transition period of seven years, London claiming 60% over a period of three years, according to European sources.
For British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, European demands are “unreasonable”.
Reconciliation on two other difficult subjects
On the other two difficult subjects – the governance of the future agreement to settle disputes and the conditions of fair competition – positions have however come closer this last week.
The Europeans are calling for guarantees in London to protect their huge market from a deregulated British economy which no longer meets their environmental, social or fiscal standards or in terms of state aid.
Without a trade agreement, trade between the EU and London will be carried out according to the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO), synonymous with customs duties or quotas, with serious consequences for economies already shaken by the pandemic.
As both sides of the Channel prepare for the return of customs controls after the breach, deal or no deal, a British parliamentary report has warned of insufficient preparation by the UK, worrying about expected disruptions at ports and security implications.