As the clock ran down on the “best endeavours” timeline set out in the Withdrawal Agreement for reaching an agreement on fisheries, the latest round of negotiations between the EU and UK aimed at securing a future partnership deal have again broken up without convergence on the main issues.
In a statement following four days of intensified talks in Brussels with his UK counterpart David Frost, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said “serious divergences remain” between the two parties.
“Our goal was to get negotiations successfully and quickly on a trajectory to reach an agreement. However, after four days of discussions, serious divergences remain.
“The EU side had listened carefully to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s statements in recent weeks, in particular, his request to reach a political agreement quickly, and his red lines”, he said.
One of those red lines, on fisheries—an area with (a now-expired) timeline aimed at an initial agreement by July 1st, with the objective of then agreeing quotas for 2021—the UK is seeking an agreement “that shows Brexit makes a real difference.”
On the talks, Mr Barnier said the EU had “engaged constructively” and “in line with the mandate entrusted to the European Commission by the Council, with the support of the European Parliament.”
However, based on the Political Declaration, the EU’s position remains, he said, that there will be no economic partnership without robust guarantees in a number of areas, included among them fisheries – an area where the EU is seeking “a balanced, sustainable and long-term solution”.
Reiterating comments he has made following previous rounds of negotiations he said that the EU would continue to insist “on parallel progress on all areas.”
“The EU expects, in turn, its positions to be better understood and respected in order to reach an agreement. We need an equivalent engagement by the United Kingdom,” he said, before stating that on the EU side it is still believed “an agreement is possible and in everyone’s interest.”
Discussions will continue in London next week, with the next round of negotiations set for the week of July 20th.
Image: A EUFA delegation including Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation CEO, Seán O’Donoghue meeting with the EU Chief Brexit Negotiator, Michel Barnier in Brussels late last year.