Daily Mail

PM’s No Deal hint as trade talks stall

Pact ‘very dif­fi­cult’ as EU digs in over fish­ing and aid

- By Ja­son Groves Po­lit­i­cal Edi­tor

DOWN­ING Street last night warned that strik­ing a Brexit trade deal will now be ‘very dif­fi­cult’ un­less Brus­sels drops its demands over fish­ing and state aid. Barnier for The in­for­mal EU’s trav­elled talks chief to with ne­go­tia­tor Lon­don UK coun­ter­part yes­ter­day Michel David Frost amid grow­ing gloom about the chances of a break­through.

For­mal talks will re­sume next week, but min­is­ters warn pri­vately that, with the two sides still far apart, there is lit­tle sign of progress with only a month left to strike a deal. Fail­ure to reach an agree­ment by the be­gin­ning of Oc­to­ber would mean the UK leav­ing without a deal when the Brexit tran­si­tion pe­riod fin­ishes at the end of this year.

The Prime Min­is­ter’s of­fi­cial spokesman said a deal was ‘still pos­si­ble and still our goal’, but added: ‘It is clear that it will not be easy to achieve.’

Talks are stalled over fish­ing rights and state aid – the rules which govern the sub­si­dies gov­ern­ments can hand to strug­gling do­mes­tic in­dus­tries. In a fur­ther blow to hopes of a break­through, Ger­many’s Europe min­is­ter Michael Roth yes­ter­day sided with de­mand­ing France, con­tin­ued Spain and Hol­land ac­cess to in Bri­tish wa­ters for EU trawlers. Ad­dress­ing the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, he re­ferred to the fish in UK wa­ters as ‘com­mon re­sources’.

He in­sisted: ‘Com­mon re­sources need to be man­aged to­gether in a sus­tain­able way, which means we can­not ac­cept that the UK would ex­clude EU fish­eries’ ef­forts from its ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters al­to­gether.’

Brus­sels is also de­mand­ing that the UK con­tin­ues to fol­low EU state aid rules as part of com­mit­ments to re­spect a ‘level play­ing field’. Mr Barnier is re­fus­ing to dis­cuss other mat­ters un­til the two is­sues are set­tled in the EU’s favour. Bri­tish ne­go­tia­tors ac­cuse Brus­sels of dou­ble stan­dards, point­ing out that the EU ac­cepts an­nual fish­ing quo­tas in Nor­we­gian wa­ters and has not made sim­i­lar demands over state aid when strik­ing deals with coun­tries like Canada. The PM’s spokesman yes­ter­day re­jected sug­ges­tions that the UK should pub­lish its state aid plans, adding: ‘After the tran­si­tion pe­riod, the UK will have its own regime of sub­sidy con­trol and will not be sub­ject to the EU’s state aid regime.

‘ The UK’s fu­ture sub­sidy ar­range­ments are a mat­ter for the Bri­tish peo­ple and Par­lia­ment, not the Euro­pean Union.’ Min­is­ters be­lieve a flex­i­ble state aid regime will be es­sen­tial as the UK tries to re­cover from the pan­demic. Mr Roth told Euro- MPs that no progress had been made for ‘quite some time’ and ac­cused the UK of ‘mov­ing away from what we had agreed on a long time ago as the ba­sis for the ne­go­ti­a­tions’. He added: ‘We fear we might be run­ning out of time to some ex­tent.’

Ex-Aus­tralian PM Tony Ab­bott, who has spo­ken to min­is­ters about a role in post-Brexit trade talks, yes­ter­day told MPs in an on­line meet­ing he hoped the EU ‘comes to its senses’ and of­fers ‘at least a Canada-style free trade deal’. He said the UK should not fear a No Deal as it was ‘al­ready do­ing so much on a No Deal ba­sis any­way’.

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