EU Signals Compromise on Fish, Courts in Brexit Deal

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(Bloomberg) --

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen signaled the EU may be willing to compromise on its demands over fishing and the role of its courts in any post-Brexit trade deal -- but warned the bloc isn’t prepared to sacrifice its principles for the sake of an agreement.

In a speech to the European Parliament on Wednesday, von der Leyen made no mention of the EU’s demand to maintain the status quo in fisheries, where British waters are divided between member states. The U.K. wants to take back control of its waters and make access subject to annual negotiations.

“No one questions the U.K.’s sovereignty on its own waters,” she said. “We ask for predictability and guarantees for our fishermen and women, who have been sailing in those waters for decades.”

Her comments come two days after she and Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to intensify talks amid some optimism they could break the deadlock in negotiations over the two sides’ future trading relationship in the coming weeks.

EU Signals Compromise on Fish, Courts in Brexit Deal

Von der Leyen limited her remarks on the role of the European courts in any accord to the part they would play “where it matters” in the area of police and judicial cooperation rather than in the wider trade deal.

That may still be too much for the British government. Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove told the House of Commons on Tuesday: “We cannot agree to a deal which gives the EU Court of Justice a role in our future relationship.”

Bureaucratic Issue

The two sides still have a long way to go to overcome their differences. Von der Leyen stuck to the EU’s tough line the way any agreement is managed and how disputes are resolved, one of the major sticking points in talks.

“Governance may sound like an issue for bureaucrats,” she said. “But this is central for businesses and private citizens both in the U.K. and in the EU to ensure that what has been agreed is actually done.”

Formal negotiations will resume on June 29 in a more concentrated format than the previous series of talks every three weeks. Johnson said he wants a deal done in July, but the EU expects it will take at least until October.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, told lawmakers the discussions will be difficult and could last for months, warning that they should be prepared for the possibility that a deal won’t be struck.

“With little time ahead of us, we will do all in our power to reach an agreement,” von der Leyen said. “What we are not ready to do is to put into question our principles and the integrity of our union.”

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