Eleventh-hour negotiations on future relations between the U.K. and EU remain stuck over fisheries, two EU diplomats said Tuesday, adding that Brussels is willing to keep negotiating into the new year to break the deadlock.
Following a briefing by chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier to the bloc’s ambassadors, one diplomat reported that “progress has been made” and that “most issues are preliminarily closed or close to being agreed.”
“However, differences on fisheries remain difficult to bridge,” the diplomat said, adding: “Unfortunately, the U.K. is not moving enough yet to clinch a fair deal on fisheries.“ The diplomat said that EU negotiators will be making “a last push now to make progress and to clinch a deal acceptable for both sides.“
A second EU diplomat confirmed that fishing rights — an issue of relatively little economic importance in terms of total EU-U.K. trade, but of very high political sensitivity for both sides — is still the key hurdle in the talks, and voiced frustration about British demands that the diplomat said are too high for some EU countries to accept.
Negotiators are facing yet another theoretical deadline on Wednesday, after which diplomats say it will be very difficult for the EU to ratify a potential agreement before year’s end, when the Brexit transition period ends and both sides would fall back on unfavorable World Trade Organization terms.
Yet the first diplomat said that Brussels is willing to continue negotiations, potentially into the new year. “The EU will not close its door to the U.K. and remains ready to negotiate even beyond January 1,” the diplomat said.
Maia de La Baume and Jacopo Barigazzi contributed reporting.