EU to use asylum seekers as bargaining chip in bid to keep control of UK fishing waters

European capitals have moved to add additional text into Michel Barnier’s negotiating guidelines that states transfers back to the continent will stop unless a special arrangement is agreed. The bloc thinks they can use the fresh demands as a bargaining chip to secure trade-offs for their hardline approach to fisheries. A new draft of the EU’s negotiation mandate, seen by, presented to member states outlines plans for a new joint deal for “cooperation on asylum and irregular migration of nationals other than those of the Parties”.

The new guidelines insist on “cooperation regarding asylum policy”.

EU sources said the new demands have been prompted by an increased number of attempts by migrants to enter Britain from European countries.

“The UK transfers a great deal of asylum seekers to EU countries,” one source said.

“We want to stop that and make the UK responsible for its own influx.”

Currently, the Dublin Regulation allows Britain to transfer asylum seekers back to their first point of entry into Europe.

But after Brexit, the bloc has made clear the provision will no longer apply unless they can reach a deal with Britain during the trade negotiations.

In 2018, the UK submitted 5,510 requests for other member states to take back migrants – mainly to France, Germany and Italy.

But it received only 1,940 demands from other EU countries to take in asylum seekers, mostly in cases of family reunification.

Brussels sources have suggested a new asylum pact could become part of a “supplementary agreement” that means the bloc could request a deal in another area before taking back refugees from Britain.

One diplomat said: Anything different would require a demand elsewhere, on fish perhaps?”

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EU ambassadors are set to rubber-stamp Mr Barnier’s negotiating guidelines at a meeting in Brussels tomorrow.

His draft mandate has been poured over by senior diplomats in a bid to harden its language ahead of the start of formal negotiations early next month.

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In a nod to the row over the Elgin Marbles, they have demanded new text that calls for the “return or restitution of unlawfully removed cultural objects to their countries of origin”.

Member states have also made it harder for Britain to access the military elements of the bloc’s Galileo satellite system.

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