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Brussels panic: EU fear Boris Johnson is using fishing as Brexit trade deal secret weapon

Brussels panic: EU fear Boris Johnson is using fishing as Brexit trade deal secret weapon 1

Boris Johnson’s negotiating team have yet to reveal the exact details of how they plan to take back control of the UK’s fishing waters as part of the future relationship with the European Union. The bloc’s leaders have made clear any trade deal hinges on the Prime Minister conceding “existing reciprocal conditions on access to waters and resources”, according to Michel Barnier’s published negotiating guidelines. But David Frost, the UK’s lead negotiator, has resisted sending his draft legal proposals as part of a recent dispatch of documents to the European Commission.

EU officials believe the move is part of a negotiating tactic by the British to secure the more favourable terms by using their most desirable asset as leverage.

To stop the UK gaining the upper hand in the trade talks, EU member states have stressed the need for “parallelism” when negotiations restart next week.

With over 11 separate work streams established, Brussels wants to ensure they all work at the same speed.

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One source said: “One key question is how do you move on things?

“The areas where there are strong convergences are UK asks, but it’s on the more difficult areas where there are divergences – the importance of advancing in parallel remains strong.”

Mr Barnier has previously stressed the entire trade deal is politically linked to a fisheries pact.

An EU official said: “If there is no progress on fish, then there can be no progress in other areas of the talks.”

Sources in the Belgian capital insist the gap between the UK and EU remains “very, very big” between their fisheries plans.

A UK official said: “We’ve always said we will seek to negotiate a comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU, and a fisheries agreement will be worked on separately.”

Britain has published a document that states its negotiating team is seeking to scrap the existing Common Fisheries Policy model in favour of annual negotiations using science to establish quota shares.

The post-Brexit trade talks are set to resume next week via video link after previous negotiating rounds were abandoned because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Government has rejected a plea to extend the transition period, as it vows to leave the EU’s single market and customs union at the end of the year.

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The Government’s hardened stance came after the International Monetary Fund warned failing to prolong the transition period could cause economic certainty.

IMF chief said Kristalina Georgieva: “It is tough as it is. Let’s not make it any tougher.

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“My advice would be to seek ways in which this elect of uncertainty is reduced in the interests of everybody, of the UK, of the EU, the whole world.”

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