Brexit talks 'need to move' next week if a deal is going to happen, UK minister warns

Brexit talks “need to move” next week if there is any chance of a deal, a UK Minister has warned.

Environment Secretary George Eustice today claimed a breakthrough had to happen soon, but admitted “there is some way between us” on fisheries.

Appearing on Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday, the Tory Minister insisted both the EU and UK negotiating teams understood the gravity of the situation.

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He said: “Both sides recognise that time is very, very short.

An EU flag and a Union flag held by a demonstrator is seen with Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) and the Houses of Parliament. Picture: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty ImagesAn EU flag and a Union flag held by a demonstrator is seen with Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) and the Houses of Parliament. Picture: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images
An EU flag and a Union flag held by a demonstrator is seen with Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) and the Houses of Parliament. Picture: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

“It’s not long ago we were saying we needed to get some kind of conclusion by the middle of October.

People have persevered with these talks.

“There does come a point frankly where businesses need to know what they are preparing for.

“You can always squeeze out extra time if you need to, if you’re nearly there.

“But I agree with [Irish Foreign Minister] Simon Coveney, perhaps we can agree on this much. This needs to be a week when things move, when we break through some of these difficult issues and get resolution and at least have some sort of headlines – if you like – of an agreement.

“Otherwise, it gets quite difficult and we do start to run out of time to implement it.”

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The call for urgency came despite the Tory MP admitting “there is some way between us” in the area of fisheries, demanding a “sensible scientific” approach.

Britain is demanding more than half the fish in British waters be reserved for UK-based fishing vessels, but the EU’s current offer would allow only the repatriation of up to 20 per cent of stocks.

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Boris Johnson has repeatedly criticised the EU’s approach to fishing rights, saying their current position was “completely unacceptable”.

Mr Eustice explained: “At the moment they’re arguing that they should have effectively eternal access to our waters and that that shouldn’t be varied from one year to the next.

“And that’s obviously quite a difficult sticking point. And yes, it’s the case that at the moment we have about half the fish in our own waters, the other half are given away to the EU.

“We want something that is more balanced, that’s more scientific, that’s based on what’s called zonal attachment, which is where the fish are actually to be found and reside.

“And yes, the EU obviously have enjoyed a lot of access to our water in the past and have taken quite a lot of fish out of our waters. I suppose it’s natural that they’d want to continue to do that.

“But they do have to accept that there are certain consequences from the UK leaving the EU and becoming an independent country again.”

Despite this, the Camborne and Redruth MP insisted an agreement was “possible”, explaining “a lot of text has been drafted”.

Mr Eustice told the BBC: “The Prime Minister last week said that we really needed to re-energise and the EU needed to focus and refresh their mandate in the final weeks because yes, on many areas progress has been made and agreement exists.

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“A lot of text has been drafted. There are these sticking points around fisheries, around state aid rules. They can be resolved.

“We’re not asking for anything miraculous. We’re really asking for what other countries like Norway and Canada already have and so it should be possible to reach that agreement.”

His comments came on a morning the Irish Foreign Minister warned if the UK Government “deliberately breaks international law” there will be no Brexit deal.

Mr Coveney claimed any agreement “won’t be ratified” if parts of the Internal Market Bill struck out by the House of Lords are brought back.

He said: “Even if we do get a new trade deal negotiated by both sides, if the British Government is determined to continue with their Internal Market Bill – to reintroduce parts of that Bill that were removed by the House of Lords this week – then, I think this is a deal that won’t be ratified by the EU.

“Because there is no way the EU will agree to ratify a new agreement if the British Government is breaking the existing agreement that is not even 12 months old, and breaking international law by doing that.

“The EU has said that it will have to take legal action against the UK if they proceed with breaking international law.”

Responding to his comments, Mr Eustice said the Government would bring back the measures anyway.

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He said: “Yes, we will be putting those measures back, they are very important. They bring clarity to mechanisms already in the Withdrawal Agreement.

"If there is an agreement, then it supersedes this whole debate.”

The Internal Market Bill has already been rejected by the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which claim it “rides roughshod” over devolution.

It has also been roundly criticised for breaking international law, although the UK Government has insisted the Bill is both good for Scotland and legally sound.

Mr Coveney this morning urged the sides to come to a compromise on fishing, and warned the consequences of failing to do so were “significant”.

He said: “We really have to try and find a way of coming up with a compromise on fish that both sides can live with.

“And we need to try and dial down the language on this because it is very easy to become emotive.”

“And I think the consequences of not getting a trade deal and a future relationship deal before the end of the year, I think it is very significant.”

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