But all is not what it may seem. Consider the BBC’s report from yesterday, which told “Talks between the UK and EU over a post-Brexit trade agreement are ‘over’, Downing Street has said. No 10 argued there was ‘no point’ in discussions continuing next week unless the EU was prepared to discuss the detailed legal text of a partnership. UK chief negotiator Lord Frost said he had told EU counterpart Michel Barnier there was now no ‘basis’ for planned talks on Monday”. So it’s all over, is it? Well, maybe not.
After all, “Number 10 said the two sides had agreed to talk again next week - by phone”. Also, what the Guardian’s man in Brussels Daniel Boffey has found paints a very different picture. “Johnson demanded that the EU’s chief negotiator come to London if he wanted to talk - 24 hours after Barnier had said in a press conference that he was coming to London for talks … Downing Street was demanding a new intensity in the talks; Barnier had already offered to speed up the process in his post-summit comments”.
As for flexibility, “During a two-hour discussion among the leaders on Thursday afternoon, flexibility had indeed been found … ‘Both sides have to take a step in the direction of the other party,’ Merkel said on Friday after Johnson’s statement. ‘Leeway is there. There is room for compromise’”. But Bozo had imposed a deadline on himself.
So he had to save face. Also, “It was also in his interest to renew his demand for a Canada-style deal in the confident knowledge that should a deal be finally secured, it will look similar”. So he can then claim victory, hoping analysts don’t pore over the small print too much. Also, Denis Staunton at the Irish Times paints a very similar picture.
“On the level playing field guarantees of fair competition, Downing Street knows that Michel Barnier is preparing to make a fresh compromise offer next week” he tells, after noting “After a succession of difficult negotiations on fisheries between Michel Barnier and the EU’s coastal states, French president Emmanuel Macron conceded for the first time that his country’s fishermen would lose some of their access to British waters”.
On top of that, “Johnson’s own statement left the door open to further talks. Frost’s rejection of Barnier’s offer of talks in London next Monday is less dramatic than it appears because no talks were actually scheduled”. However, “The two men have agreed to talk next week but the EU side may have to make a public gesture to satisfy Johnson’s honour so that negotiations can resume”. Once again, Bozo has to save face.
Former trade negotiator Dmitri Grozoubinski concluded “London is behaving exactly as you'd expect if it was preparing to sell a compromise involving painful concessions as a hard won triumph … That doesn't guarantee that's the plan, but all the hysterics and drama would fit neatly into that script”. Bozo knows he has to cave on some issues.
But he must appear not to cave; quite the opposite. Thus history is being rewritten.
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Here's some hard facts on the UK's fishing industry in this excerpt from an article published in January 2020 in Prospect magazine.
"It is a little-known secret but one of the reasons why foreign fishermen have the right to exploit UK waters is because UK law allows fishermen to sell their quota rights to the highest bidder. It is the only EU member state that permits this.
As a result, a large share of quotas that used to belong to UK fishermen is now owned and exploited by French, Dutch and Spanish vessel owners.
If pro-Brexit politicians really wanted to ensure that UK fishermen had a better deal in the form of a larger share of UK quotas, they should have fought for it to be illegal to sell fishing rights.
Coming back to the negotiations, there is another reason why the UK will have to accept a trade-off between giving EU fishermen access to UK waters and access to lucrative EU markets for UK-caught fish. A large part of what UK fishing vessels catch is high-value seafood like crabs and Dublin Bay prawns (or langoustines and nephrops to give them their technical name) that find a ready market on French and Spanish dining tables. UK consumers, who eat much less fish than the French and Spanish, don’t like the high-value fish so much, preferring instead white fish like cod which comes from places like Norway.
So the EU will bargain hard in the negotiations to continue catching as much fish in UK waters as it does at the moment, and possibly more. The UK will have to agree because its fishing businesses want to keep on selling to the EU market.
Soon fishermen will be talking about the one that really got away: any chance of taking back control of UK fisheries. But then that was always a red herring."
An "Australia deal" is not "no deal". It's much better, but only for Australia
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