Ursula von der Leyen’s senior team is calling on EU member states with the largest fishing fleets to reconsider their “final offer” after Downing Street made a significant move to break the Brexit deadlock.
It is understood that France and Denmark are the most cautious when it comes to making a counter-proposal, based on their current claim that their vessels lose only 25% of the value of the fish they catch in British waters.
The European Commission president spoke by phone with Boris Johnson on Monday night to discuss a way forward, and EU sources said Von der Leyen is determined to find a landing zone for a deal.
Backstage discussions took place on Tuesday morning between the commission president’s top advisers and the EU capitals hardest hit by Brexit-led changes to fisheries agreements.
According to EU sources, according to a proposal tabled Monday afternoon by UK chief negotiator David Frost, the British demand for a 60% reduction in catch by value in British waters has been reduced to 35%, much closer to 25%. reduction that Frost’s EU counterpart Michel Barnier had said he would be willing to accept.
Boris Johnson has suggested a five-year phase-in period for the new deals, compared to his initial three-year offer, with a commitment also likely to apply tariffs or bans on the export of goods where access to fishing changes. after gradual introduction. period, it is understood.
When the portion of the fee is reduced in the future, an independent arbitration panel will deduct the cost and allow either party to impose tariffs on the goods or seek compensation.
According to sources informed of the terms, there will also be a termination clause in the event that the reduction in access is deemed egregious, which will open a new negotiation on all aspects of the trade deal. UK sources declined to comment.
EU sources said the offer by itself was not enough to negotiate a deal, but that if France and Denmark could convince themselves of the merits of future talks, it could lead to one last feverish period of negotiation.
The EU side will want a slightly longer introductory period for quota changes and there are concerns about proposed solutions for when European vessels lose.
Negotiators are now running out of a path with just nine days before the UK leaves the single market and the EU customs union, with or without new trade and security deals in place.
The European Parliament has already said that it is too late to take a vote of consent on any deal. Member states would likely seek to “provisionally apply” the agreement on January 1, and MEPs would vote at the end of the month.
But this process also takes several days, given the need for legal cleansing, translation and scrutiny by governments. If the talks go beyond December 23, there may be an unavoidable period after January 1 in which no agreement is reached. Contingency measures could be negotiated to avoid the worst impacts, but it would leave exporting companies, ports and security services in legal limbo.
The European Parliament’s legal service informed key MEPs on Monday that it might be possible to extend the transition period by means of a new treaty. But when asked Tuesday morning if there was any temptation to seek an extension of the Brexit transition period, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “No, there isn’t.”
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