‘Complete lack of movement’ on fishing set to trigger no-deal Brexit, UK officials warn

EU refuses to budge on totemic issue as time ticks away on transition period

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier walks with members of the EU delegation in London.
(Image credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

The odds of no-deal Brexit are increasing as a result of a “complete lack of movement” from the EU in the ongoing row over fishing rights, UK officials have warned.

Progress has been made on issues including law enforcement, transport and social security, but a source told Politico’s London Playbook that if Brussels continues to demand free access to UK waters and continuity in fishing quotas, no agreement on post-Brexit trade can be reached.

“Unfortunately, we haven’t achieved as much as we’d hoped during these intensive talks so far,” said the source, who claimed the EU is also continuing to demand that the UK does not diverge too far from the bloc’s approach to state aid.

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“We still need more realism from the EU,” the insider continued. “They can’t expect us to agree to a treaty under which we can’t move away from EU norms in important areas.

“And they don’t seem to have realized the scale of change in fishing rights they face if there is no agreement.”

On Sunday, Boris Johnson told Sky News that he has “always been a great enthusiast for a trade deal with our European friends and partners”, adding: “The broad outlines are pretty clear, we just need to get on and do it if we can.”

UK and EU negotiators are resuming talks in London today, as the House of Lords debates the prime minister’s contentious Internal Market Bill.

The bill, which reneges on elements of the Withdrawal Agreement signed in January, has been condemned by US president-elect Joe Biden, and risks triggered a “rift” between the new White House administration and Downing Street, The Guardian reports.

As the paper notes, Biden “has expressed negative views on the UK’s plans to override parts of the agreement if no deal is reached with the bloc”.

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Joe Evans is the world news editor at TheWeek.co.uk. He joined the team in 2019 and held roles including deputy news editor and acting news editor before moving into his current position in early 2021. He is a regular panellist on The Week Unwrapped podcast, discussing politics and foreign affairs. 

Before joining The Week, he worked as a freelance journalist covering the UK and Ireland for German newspapers and magazines. A series of features on Brexit and the Irish border got him nominated for the Hostwriter Prize in 2019. Prior to settling down in London, he lived and worked in Cambodia, where he ran communications for a non-governmental organisation and worked as a journalist covering Southeast Asia. He has a master’s degree in journalism from City, University of London, and before that studied English Literature at the University of Manchester.