Hopes for an imminent post Brexit trade deal between the UK and the European Union subsided on Tuesday after the European Commission said the two sides had not yet found a deal on sharing access to fishing waters and markets.
“We have not yet found a solution on fisheries,” an EC spokesman told a news briefing on Tuesday morning as reported by Reuters.
“We are not there yet, a lot more work remains to be done,” he added, noting that talks under way in Brussels this week were very intensive and on all topics.
The UK has called for future fishing opportunities be calculated on the basis of 'zonal attachment' which would greatly increase the amount of fish caught in UK waters by British boats and allow London to claim victory in its goal of taking back control of the country’s fishing industry.
Supporters of Brexit also see fishing as a symbol of sovereignty. The UK says any new agreement on fisheries must be based on the understanding that "British fishing grounds are first and foremost for British boats".
But the EU wants access for its boats and says reaching a "fair deal" on fisheries is a pre-condition for a free trade agreement.
The issue rests on the question of who will have the right to catch what and in which waters when the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December. Boats from member states land about eight times more fish in UK waters than British fishing crews do in EU waters, but the UK is dependent on the European export market.
The Common Fisheries Policy allows European boats access to British waters. Critics say that it has destroyed the UK fishing industry.
Under one proposal, the sides could agree to a “phasing-out mechanism” for fish quotas that would increase Britain’s share in time, rather than the start of January 2021.
But the UK's fishing lobby is determined to stand firm. “Brexit creates a golden opportunity to regain 70 percent of the UK’s fisheries resources and rejuvenate a multi-billion pound industry for the nation”, said Fishing for Leave a campaign group founded by Brexit-supporting businessman businessman and political donor Arron Banks.
— Fishing for Leave (@fishingforleave) November 2, 2020