Politics

Brexit masterplan: Boris CAN compromise with EU and still secure fishing win, says MP

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The UK’s David Frost and EU’s Michel Barnier have been locked in crunch talks in a desperate bid to make a breakthrough and meet the mid-November deadline for an agreement to be in place before the end of this year. But no breakthrough had been made, with fishing remaining a huge sticking point, as both sides refuse to compromise and risk betraying their fishermen and breaking promises made to their respective industries. Britain is insisting on annual catch negotiations under the principle of “zonal attachment” but the EU demanding a longer-term perspective for its fishing industry and more specific numerical targets for some 100 species.

Zonal attachment works on the premise that the country or jurisdiction where fish shoals spend the majority of their time, which is calculated based on geographic catching records, should have control over access and quota levels – a huge benefit to the UK given its rich waters.

The UK also wants a separate agreement on fisheries, while Brussels has insisted it must be part of any wider free trade deal.

Tentative proposals for a compromise, including a new transition period from next year to help finalise more complex elements, have yet to fully materialise as both sides continue to disagree over the length of any such arrangement and what exactly would be the end result.

The lack of breakthrough has left the fishing industry fearing the two sides are running out of time to strike an agreement before the end of the current Brexit transition period on December 31.

But Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat MP for the coastal constituency of Orkney and Shetland, has explained how the Prime Minister and his UK negotiating team could compromise with the EU and ultimately yield a huge breakthrough.

He told Express.co.uk: “Compromising and deals are an everyday part of life and Government.

“You find a way of managing things but the scope for compromise is limited.

“Any compromise on fishing with the EU would not just have to be limited in its scope, but also in its duration.

“If they are to compromise on access to waters, for example, then that would have to be strictly time limited.

“The purpose of that would have to be to grow the UK fishing industry, fill the gap and to get the capacity to take full advantage of the opportunities they have.”

But the Liberal Democrats Home Affairs spokesperson warned there is a greater risk of the UK handing over any fishing rights to the EU the closer it gets to the transition period without an agreement in place.

He said: “Until you have an agreement on fishing, then you have to be nervous.

“The closer it gets to the transition period deadline of December 31 without an agreement on fishing, then the greater risk the UK will blink and they will hand over fishing rights to the EU that they shouldn’t.”

Mr Carmichael also warned the political consequences for Mr Johnson and his Conservative Party would be “absolutely enormous” if the Government offers too many compromises to the EU or is seen to be selling out the UK fishing industry.

He added Tories may never be forgiven by millions of UK voters if they break promises to fishermen by not taking back control of UK waters.

The Liberal Democrat MP warned: “If the Government offers too many compromises or betrays the UK fishing industry, the political consequences would be absolutely enormous.

“This comes nearly 50 years since Ted Heath’s government described the UK fishing industry as being expendable.

“For years, the fishing industry felt as if nobody in Government was listening to them and that nobody in Government was committed to the future of their industry.

“If having raised hopes things are going to be different but then these hopes are then dashed, the Tories will not be forgiven for a generation, if ever.

“Realising the true importance of the UK fishing industry will never come too late, but the later the government leaves it, the more difficult it becomes.

“We are negotiating with people who for the last 40 years have seen Britain as a country that would always compromise when its fishing industry is involved, so you already begin with a large disadvantage.

“The point to show you were serious was right at the start of the negotiations, and not leaving that until the last minute, which I fear works to the advantage of the EU as opposed to the UK.”

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