'No trade deal without fisheries rights,' EU's Barnier tells UK

Barely 48 hours after the flags and the fireworks, Brexit talks begin for real.
Barely 48 hours after the flags and the fireworks, Brexit talks begin for real. Copyright AP
By Alastair JamiesonSandrine Amiel, AP
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Even as smoke was still clearing from fireworks marking the end of Britain’s EU membership, Britain and the EU were both gearing up for Brexit talks.


Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said the European Union will link any access to its market for British products directly to the access that EU boats will be given to UK waters.

A little more than 60 hours after Britain’s historic departure from the European Union, Barnier was presenting the bloc's draft mandate for negotiations with the UK on Monday — as the clock begins ticking on the 11-month transition period.

"Our aim is to conclude an ambitious partnership with the UK," Barnier told reporters.

"But I want us to remain clear-headed. The most ambitious partnership is the one we had before," Barnier said, insisting that EU membership guaranteed the best relationship with the bloc.

Barnier's presentation came as British PM Boris Johnson prepared for a speech on the same day that will set out his position on post-Brexit relations.

Even as smoke was still clearing from fireworks marking the end of Britain’s 47-year EU membership, both sides sought to establish their lines of negotiation ahead of what is likely to be a frantic process.

Economic partnership

Barnier said the EU aimed to negotiate a free trade agreement with "zero tariffs" and "zero quotas" provided that competition remained "open and fair" and that an agreement on fisheries was found.

Fishing rights have been a key issue in the UK's protracted Brexit divorce deal.

However, Barnier warned, even in the scenario of such a free trade agreement, "it won’t be business as usual."

"Businesses must adapt to this new reality," he said.

Barnier insisted there could be no trade deal unless Britain agrees to a ``"level playing field'' and does not undercut EU regulations.

Security partnership

"The kind of partnership we have in mind is not just about trade," the EU negotiator said.

After paying tribute to the victims of the Streatham terror attack in London on Sunday, Barnier outlined the future of security cooperation between the UK and the bloc.

He said both sides aimed to continue to "work closely to guaranty security both internally and externally."

Barnier emphasised that the UK's respect for the European Convention of Human Rights, data protection and effective dispute settlement mechanisms would be key in negotiating the future security partnership.


The EU official outlined the bloc's timeline and methodology for negotiations with the UK.

He said the draft mandate for negotiations will be discussed with the bloc's 27 member states, submitted to the European Parliament this Wednesday and 'hopefully' adopted by the EU Council on February 25.

Then actual negotiations will begin on a 'dozen of thematic areas', Barnier said.


He emphasised the need to "move more quickly in areas where there is a greater risk of no-deal" -- including the Irish border.

'It's like playing 3-D chess'

“There’s a massive agenda to be agreed: trade in goods, trade in services, data protection, security cooperation, aviation, road haulage, fishing, you know the list is endless,'' said Jill Rutter, a senior research fellow at UK in a Changing Europe, a think tank that studies Britain's relations with the EU.

“It's like playing 3-D chess,'' she said.

Johnson is preparing to impose full customs and border checks on all European goods entering the UK — a move that his officials believe will give his negotiators greater leverage against Brussels — according to a report in Saturday’s Daily Telegraph.

For its part, the EU will back Spain over its territorial claims to Gibraltar by giving Madrid the power to exclude the territory from any trade deal, according to a report in The Observer that said Johnson will be forced to choose between reaching an agreement with the Spaniards about Gibraltar’s future or exposing its citizens to economic peril.


Until the transition period ends on December 31, little has changed despite crowds in London, Edinburgh and elsewhere marking Friday night’s departure with rallies, flags and fireworks in a mixture of celebration and sorrow.

'No revenge or punishment'

The EU accounted for 54% of Britain's imports and 43% of its exports in 2016, according to the Office for National Statistics.

French President Emmanuel Macron published a letter on his Facebook page Saturday morning in English, addressed to his “dear British friends,” that sought a conciliatory tone.

“Never has France or the French people – or, I think it is fair to say, any European people – been driven by a desire for revenge or punishment,” he said.

However, Britain must also negotiate separate trade deals with individual countries including the United States, which is the destination for 18% of British exports.

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