LONDON (Reuters) – Britain and the European Union might be able to reach a compromise on fisheries by settling on the bloc being handed access to UK waters in exchange for higher quotas for the United Kingdom, industry chiefs said on Tuesday.
As the two sides launch a fourth round of virtual negotiations to try to secure a free trade deal and on their future relationship, fisheries looks set to dominate negotiations which run until Friday.
The talks, aimed at setting out a new future with Britain for the first time in more than 40 years outside the EU, have all but stalled, with both sides accusing each other of lacking the political will to spur them on before the December deadline.
But Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, said although an agreement on fisheries was unlikely to be reached by the end of this month, it was a possibility for later in the year.
“I think a deal will be done. I think there is some way to go, that the two sides are very far apart but that’s in the nature of things … My feeling is that a deal will probably emerge in September or October,” he told journalists.
“For me, the compromise lies in access in return for a new sharing arrangement.”
Last month, EU sources said the bloc was willing to shift its stance on fisheries which so far has sought to maintain the status quo – something that the British government said cannot happen now it is out of the bloc.
With both sides far apart not just on fisheries, but on the EU’s demand for “level playing field” guarantees of fair competition and security cooperation, this week’s talks are unlikely to break new ground towards a compromise.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain would not be “splitting the difference on the level playing field and fish: we aren’t compromising on these because our position on these is fundamental to an independent country”.
Both sides want this week’s talks to produce momentum before a “high level meeting”, most likely when Johnson discusses progress made with EU chiefs, including Commission head Ursula von der Leyen.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper and Gabriela Baczynska in Brussels,; Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Giles Elgood)