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Post-Brexit talks between the UK’s chief negotiator David Frost and his EU counterpart continue to stall over fishing rights with time rapidly running out. Britain will leave the controversial Common Fisheries Policy at the end of the Brexit transition period on January 1.
The one-sided treaty agreed in the 1970s allows EU members states to plunder the UK’s rich Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) which extends 200 nautical miles from the coastline.
EU chiefs have been under increasing pressure from leading fishing nations, including France and The Netherlands, to secure access to UK waters as part of any wider trade deal.
One option understood to have been put forward by the bloc would see UK vessels only allowed to retain between 10 and 20 percent of fish stocks.
Barrie Deas, CEO of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) has condemned the negotiating mandate of the EU and demanded the UK have at minimum of a 50 percent share.
The NFFO represents fishermen in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and Mr Deas has highlighted the disparities already face by industries across the UK.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, he said: “The EU negotiating mandate is to keep the status quo on quota shares and access.
“That is not realistic given that the UK will act as an independent coastal state after December 31. We expect quota shares to be adjusted in the UK’s favour.
“For example, the UK’s share of Channel cod is nine percent, whilst the French share is 84 percent. We would expect that to be adjusted to something like 50 percent.”
The leading fishing chief also took aim the EU for attempting to use fishing as “leverage” in blocking a formal trading relationship with Europe and accused Brussels’ negotiators of playing “Russian roulette” with nobody winning.
He added: “The EU, to create negotiating leverage, have said that they will withhold a trade deal unless the UK capitulates on fish.
“We see no sign that the UK are about to cave in.
“In, any event, this tactic would amount to a strange form of Russian roulette because all parties would be worse off without a trade deal.”
Lord Frost and Mr Barnier have been locked in negotiations all week in the Belgian capital and have had to battle differences as well as coronavirus.
Discussions in Brussels were halted on Wednesday after a member of the EU delegation tested positive for the virus.
Talks resumed the next day with outstanding issues over fishing, state aid and the so-called level playing field on competition.
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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was upbeat about the tone of discussions and said progress had been made in two of the crucial areas.
She said: “After difficult weeks with very, very slow progress, now we’ve seen in the last days better progress, more movement on important files. This is good.
“Within the frame of the level playing field, progress for example has been made with state aid, but there are still quite some metres to the finish line so there’s a lot of work to do.”