Fishing row erupts: Boris Johnson warned Brussels won’t budge as Macron ‘digs heels in’

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Last week, Mr Johnson’s chief negotiator Lord Frost presented the EU with a three-year adjustment period over fisheries. Despite this major concession from the UK, a fisheries agreement remains elusive as the clock ticks down on the Brexit negotiations. Speaking to Express.co.uk, chief executive of The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, Barrie Deas argued the EU is yet to regard the UK as an independent state.

Indeed, Mr Deas stated big gaps remain between the two sides as EU states such as France desperately try to retain unrestricted access to British waters.

He said: “I think we’re some considerable way away from an agreement.

“My understanding is that this idea of a three-year adjustment period was something that the UK suggested to the EU, but haven’t really had a response.

“I think, probably much more significant is the scale of the adjustment to the quota shares, which is required to reflect the UK new status as an independent coastal state.

“That’s where the big gap is, and where countries like France are digging their heels in.”

Last week, the UK did agree a historic fisheries agreement with Norway, the first as an independent coastal nation.

This deal sets out annual negotiations over access to waters and quotas.

Due to the proposal on quotas and access, this illustrates the strange demands put forward by the EU, Mr Deas said.

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This agreement is also similar to the treaty between the EU and Norway and should be the basis of any future agreement between Brussels and Britain.

He added: “I do think the Norway agreement is big because it’s the first fisheries agreement where the UK is defined as an independent coastal state and should be how the EU treats Britain.

“The EU-Norway agreement also shows how Brussels treated the nation for 40 years.

“It’s how the UK will relate to the Faroe Islands, to Norway, to Iceland and it just puts the spotlight on how strange the EU’s demands are.

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“And I think even the EU Commission thinks their demands are strange.”

Despite claiming the EU’s demands are bizarre, Mr Deas did conclude UK officials had stated Britain’s fisheries remain key to their negotiating position.

On Monday, German Chancellor met with EU officials, namely French President, Emmanuel Macron, to urge them to drop their demands on fisheries.

Ms Merkel was also supported by her Foreign Minister, Heiko Mass, who called on EU states to support a Brexit compromise.

States such as France, want continued access to British waters similar to what they have gained within the Common Fisheries Policy.

Due to the UK being an independent state, Lord Frost has rejected this demand.

Under his three-year transition proposal, the two sides would use that time to adjust to new measures, thus giving coastal communities time to adapt.

Fishing quotas would also be reduced year on year.

Following the last round of negotiations, Lord Frost said: “On fisheries the gap between us is unfortunately very large and, without further realism and flexibility from the EU, risks being impossible to bridge. 

“These issues are fundamental to our future status as an independent country.”

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