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Michel Barnier: EU boats must have access to UK waters in return for trade deal

4 min read

European fishing boats must have access to UK waters in return for a comprehensive free trade agreement with Brussels, Michel Barnier has declared.

The EU's chief negotiator issued the warning as he said the UK cannot expect “business as usual” as it leaves the bloc.

Mr Barnier told Boris Johnson that the UK would “no longer be able to benefit from the rights and economic advantages” of its time as an member state, as he unveiled the union’s draft negotiating stance for the coming talks.

And he again insisted that goods traded between the two entities would face checks as the price of securing a “best-in-class free trade agreement”.

Leaving the EU's Common Fisheries Policy was one of the main pro-Leave arguments during the 2016 referendum.

But senior EU figures have suggested that a deal on financial services may be dependent on their fishermen continue to catch in British waters.

Emphasising that message, Mr Barnier said: "Our free trade agreement must include an agreement on fisheries. This agreement should provide for continued, reciprocal access to markets and to waters with stable quota shares."

The warning came ahead of a bullish speech by the Prime Minister, in which he insisted that the UK will not accept EU rules as the price of a tariff-free trade deal.

Mr Johnson said there was "no need" for the Government to sign up to Brussels' regulations in areas such as environmental standards, workers' rights or competition policy.

Instead, he is pushing for a much looser, Canada-style agreement to be in place by the start of 2021 - with the Tory leader calling for “no alignment” between the UK and the EU.

Speaking in Brussels, Mr Barnier said the EU was willing to offer Britain “a highly ambitious trade deal” that would see “zero-tariffs and zero-quotas on all goods entering our single market of 450 million people”.

But he made clear that that “exceptional offer” would be “conditional” on competition between the UK and EU remaining “open and fair”.

“We have already agreed with Prime Minister Johnson that our future partnership will prevent, and I quote, ‘unfair competitive advantages’,” he said.

“We must now agree on specific and effective guarantees to ensure a level playing field over the long-term.

“That means mechanisms to uphold the high standards we have on social, environmental, climate, tax and state aid matters today and in the future developments.”

The EU’s chief negotiator made clear the bloc would also demand “continued, reciprocal access” to UK waters as part of a pact on fisheries.

And he warned: “It is important… to understand even if we do achieve such a best-in-class free trade agreement it will not be business as usual. We will have two separate markets instead of one single market.

“Rules of origin and customs formalities will apply between the UK and the EU. Access to the EU markets will be subject to certification and market authorisation and supervision activities.

“There will be no harmonisation or mutual recognition of rules.

“This means for example that UK financial services suppliers will no longer have the passporting rights they used to enjoy the union legislation.

“All imports of goods or services supplied in the EU will need to comply with the EU rules - or other standards protecting our public policy objectives.”


Urging businesses across the UK and the continent to “adapt now to this new reality”, Mr Barnier said Boris Johnson now had to choose whether or not Britain should align with EU rules in a bid secure “higher quality access” to its markets.

“But it will be up to the UK to decide,” he added.

“Will it continue to adhere to Europe’s societal and regulatory model in the future? Or will it seek to diverge?

“The UK’s answer to this question - a key question - will be fundamental for the level of ambition of our future relationship and the UK must know this.”

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen added: “It's now time to get down to work. Time is short.

“We will negotiate in a fair and transparent manner, but we will defend EU interests, and the interests of our citizens, right until the end.”

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