The Brussels negotiator insisted both sides must make”tangible” advancements on all areas of the trade deal in the hope of preventing the Prime Minister from using entry into Britain’s fishing waters as a bargaining chip in the EU UK future relations. The Frenchman has warned maintaining accessibility for European fishermen into Britain’s waters will come as the cost for any trade deal. European capitals believe the UK Government has held back its fisheries strategy in the expectation of securing more favourable provisions, in areas like financial services.
The Prime Minister Europe adviser, Mr Frost, has yet to publish a draft fisheries text as part of a succession of suggestions sent to the European Commission. Britain has released a document that says in favour of discussions using science to set up quota shares its negotiating group is seeking to scrap the Common Fisheries Policy version. Both sides are focused on making progress — with week-long talks scheduled for May and June — ahead of a high-level meeting between Mr Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen.
Talks got amid a gloomy atmosphere after rounds of trade negotiations were abandoned due to the coronavirus pandemic. Brussels has denied considerably changing its priorities after Mr Johnson ruled out extending the Brexit transition period. An EU Commission spokesman said: “The matter now is to try and ensure the UK’s exit from the EU and the transition interval if it’s not extended further from the end of the year, set a threshold for our negotiations with the UK going forward, pandemic or no pandemic. “Of course we have come up with a complete agenda on all kinds of different subjects and let me reiterate that we have a busy week ahead of us now and we’re going to work as hard as we can to ensure progress.”
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Mr Johnson is under pressure to seek an extension of the transition period beyond December 31 2020. Three separate weeks of talks have been agreed, with the first week of discussions taking place today. The remainder will commence on May 11 and June 1, the BBC reports. The talks come after several cancelled face to face discussions because of the COVID-19 outbreak; however, meetings will take place over videoconference.
Downing Street has insisted ministers are ready to walk away with a barebones trade deal if Brussels refuses to compromise. Mr Johnson will make the last decision on whether a deal is possible after holding discussions in June with Mrs von der Leyen. A No 10 spokesman said: “This week we anticipate further constructive talks with the intent of making progress ahead of June, construction on the discussions so far which have identified the major areas where we agree and disagree.” They remains only a couple of the outstanding issues that EU sources state there is a”very, very big gap” between both sides’ positions. Officials will negotiate in 11 different workgroups in a bid to speed the procedure up. Talks will finish before being reconvened on May 11, and again on June 1.
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