EU states wary of losing fishing rights in Brexit deal

A boat prepares to depart during a demonstration in Whitstable, south-east England, on April 8, 2018, against the Brexit transition deal that would see Britain continue to adhere to the common fisheries policy after formally leaving the EU.
A boat prepares to depart during a demonstration in Whitstable, south-east England, on April 8, 2018, against the Brexit transition deal that would see Britain continue to adhere to the common fisheries policy after formally leaving the EU.PHOTO: AFP

BRUSSELS • Some European Union member states have concerns about the draft Brexit deal, particularly about access to fishing in British waters, but there is little appetite in Brussels to reopen negotiations.

British Prime Minister Theresa May may be struggling to sell the accord in London, but in Brussels, a European official said on Thursday that both sides had "exhausted their margin to manoeuvre".

Senior officials and EU lawmakers largely welcomed the draft, which Mr Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, said should lead to a summit on Nov 25 to seal an orderly Brexit.

Many emphasised that the only alternative to the deal is not a better one, but a "disorderly Brexit", which could be seen as a devastating self-inflicted economic wound for both sides.

"We have a document on the table that has been adopted by the EU and the United Kingdom, and so for me the question of further negotiations does not arise," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

In Brussels, European officials stressed that both sides had made compromises in order to reach the draft and to head off a hard Brexit, but some member states have grumbles nevertheless.

In particular, France, the Netherlands, Spain and some others are said to be concerned that the withdrawal agreement governing the terms of the divorce does not cover fishing.

 
 

Mrs May has said the deal would restore Britain's status as a coastal power and that London will withdraw from the EU common fisheries policy.

National waters are an emotive issue in British ports, but EU officials want to agree on rules for European boats in a later deal on the future relationship rather than in the tricky divorce.

Maritime members fear their boats will be excluded from British waters after Brexit and have raised the issue in Brussels - and may argue that since the deal keeps Britain in the EU Customs union, it should share its fish.

"You could argue that because of the Customs union, British fish has access tariff free to the single market," a European diplomat said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2018, with the headline 'EU states wary of losing fishing rights in Brexit deal'. Print Edition | Subscribe