U.K. Digs In on Fishing With EU Brexit Trade Talks at an Impasse


U.K. Brexit negotiator David Frost signaled Britain is seeking a greater share of the European Union’s fishing catch after leaving the bloc, a demand that is a key obstacle to striking a trade deal between the two sides.

On Friday, two of the U.K.’s biggest fishing groups said British vessels should be able to increase the share of fish they catch in the country’s coastal waters, saying the current quota allocations are “woefully unfair.” In a tweet, Frost said he welcomed the statement.

Disagreement over fishing and the so-called level-playing field -- in particular, what EU state aid rules the U.K. will have to follow after leaving the bloc -- are the major obstacles to a trade deal as talks between the two sides are set to resume next week. Without an accord, Britain will default to trading with the EU on terms set by the World Trade Organization, meaning the return of tariffs and quotas as well as extra paperwork for business.

The EU is seeking to keep the access its fisherman currently have to U.K. waters, fearing job losses and damage to coastal communities in countries like Ireland and Spain if their catches are reduced. The U.K. is pressing to reduce that access.

U.K. Digs In on Fishing With EU Brexit Trade Talks at an Impasse

The EU has previously said a deal on the subject is a prerequisite for any wider trade deal with the U.K. This week, Michel Barnier, the EU’s Brexit negotiator, said he is “worried” and “disappointed” by the current state of the talks, saying Britain will need to shift its position if it is to reach an agreement.

“Our goal remains to reach a deal, and we will continue to work to achieve that,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman Jamie Davies told reporters on Friday. “That requires more realism from the EU.”

On Friday, the Times reported that Johnson wants British fishermen to double the size of their catch from U.K. coastal waters. Davies said he didn’t recognize the report.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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