EU risks fresh Brexit fishing row with UK over no-deal contingency plans


The EU has offered the UK a series of short-term mini-deals for planes, lorries and fishing boats, should there be no full trade deal between the two sides by 1 January.

The bloc made the proposals to the UK on Thursday with trade negotiations still deadlocked just three weeks before the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned that, even if a UK-EU trade deal is reached in the coming days, there is “no guarantee” it will be ratified in time for 1 Janaury.

It follows her dinner with Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday night, after which the pair agreed trade talks should continue despite “major differences” remaining between the two sides.

Ms von der Leyen on Thursday outlined four areas – air connectivity, aviation safety, basic road connectivity and fisheries – where short-term agreements could be made in the absence of a trade deal on New Year’s Day.

These would keep planes flying, lorries moving and allow EU fishing boats to continue working in UK waters in the event of a no-deal outcome.

The European Commission said the aim of the “targeted” contingency measures – to be agreed on a reciprocal basis – is to cater for the period during which there is no trade deal in place.

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It added that “if no agreement enters into application, they will end after a fixed period”.

“Negotiations are still ongoing,” Ms von der Leyen said.

“However, given that the end of the transition is very near, there is no guarantee that if and when an agreement is found, it can enter into force on time.

“Our responsibility is to be prepared for all eventualities, including not having a deal in place with the UK on 1 January 2021.

“That is why we are coming forward with these measures today.”

The EU’s offer includes proposals for new regulations to “ensure the provision of certain air services between the UK and the EU” for six months, should the UK ensure the same.

In order to avoid the grounding of EU aircraft, the bloc is also proposing a new law to ensure “various safety certificates for products can continue to be used in EU aircraft without disruption”.

In exchange for the UK assuring the same to EU hauliers, Brussels is offering legislation covering “basic connectivity with regard to both road freight and road passenger transport” for six months.

And, for fisheries, the EU is proposing a year-long legal framework for “continued reciprocal access by EU and UK vessels to each other’s waters” in 2021.

The bloc said such a framework could end earlier than 31 December next year, should a new fisheries agreement with the UK be concluded prior to that date.

Parts of the mini-deals offered by the EU to the UK contain the same demands for so-called level playing field provisions that have been such a contentious aspect of post-Brexit trade negotiations.

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