UK could trade its fishing rights for financial services access after Brexit, EU trade chief suggests

Britain could end up giving EU fishing fleets access to its waters in exchange for favourable terms on the continent for City financiers, the bloc’s trade chief has suggested.

Phil Hogan, the Irish commissioner who will be one of the key figures in the next round of Brexit talks, said there would be “trade-offs” to make in talks with both sides seeking concessions in different areas.

The suggestion is likely to enrage Brexiteers, who see fishing rights as a major part of British sovereignty – despite the industry’s marginal role in the UK economy, accounting for just 0.1 per cent of GDP.

“There certainly will be trade-offs, particularly at the end of the negotiations,” Mr Hogan, the EU’s trade Commissioner told the Irish Independent. 

“The EU will be seeking concessions on fishery access and the UK will very probably be seeking concessions on financial services.”

Some Brexiteers have made grand promises about the effect of leaving the EU on Britian’s fishing industry. Tory MP Peter Aldous told the BBC’s Today programme only this week that there would be a “sevenfold” increase in the amount of fish that could be caught by UK fishermen.

“We’d see a sevenfold increase of what our quota stocks, those fishing stocks that are subject to quota, are and can actually be caught by UK vessels in the south and north sea,” the Waveney MP told the programme.

But the EU is insisting that fishing access must be part of any basic trade agreement signed by the end of the year – and has said it will be willing to defend its own interests. Boris Johnson has set himself a cliff-edge to secure an agreement by the end of the year, so will be under pressure to sign to avoid a no-deal on WTO terms. 

But Fishing rights are important to some countries like France, which makes use of British waters – meaning EU leaders will also want to avoid no-deal at the end of the year if possible. 

The City of London, Britain’s financial centre (AFP)

Key parts of Britain’s financial services sector will be largely locked out of EU markets after Brexit unless special agreements can be drawn up. The changes are already hitting some businesses: on Tuesday French oil company Total announced it was moving its London-based treasury department back to Paris because of Brexit. The group had moved operations to London in 2013.

EU diplomats from member states discussed the bloc’s approach to fishing rights in negotiations as part of seminars with Commission officials on Tuesday morning. 

A slide presentation drawn up by EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier’s team warned that the “challenge ahead is unprecedented in scale” and that EU objectives include “continued reciprocal access” to waters and “stable quota shares”. 

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