The EU General Affairs Council agreed to negotiate to “uphold the existing reciprocal access to waters” at its meeting on this morning. European ministers signed off on Brussels’ red lines for the upcoming post-Brexit trade talks with the UK, which includes proposals put into writing warnings by Michel Barnier, the European Union’s chief negotiator, that Britain must sign up to a “level playing field” in any free trade agreement. The EU’s negotiating mandate said: “Besides the cooperation on conservation, management and regulation, the objective of the provisions on fisheries should be to uphold Union fishing activities.
“In particular, it should aim to avoid economic dislocation for union fishermen that have been engaged in fishing activities in the UK waters.”
This is despite Mr Johnson using a speech in Greenwich earlier this month to announce that, once free of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy, “British fishing grounds are first and foremost for British boats”
Former MEP for the West Midlands Rupert Lowe blasted the EU for issuing Mr Johnson this “blood-red line”.
He wrote on Twitter: “Enough to send chills down your spine!
“This has to be a blood-red line for Boris.
“Our fishermen have suffered from ‘economic dislocation’ for decades – time to put them first for once!”
In its negotiation mandate, the EU also stated that any future relationship with the UK should be “underpinned by robust commitments to ensure a level playing field for open and fair competition, given the EU and the UK’s geographic proximity and economic interdependence”.
Croatian Europe minister Andreja Metelko-Zgombic said the EU is “ready” to commence trade talks now its mandate had been ratified.
He said: “The council has adopted a clear and strong mandate for our negotiator, Michel Barnier.
“This confirms our readiness to offer an ambitious, wide-ranging and balanced partnership to the UK for the benefit of both sides.
“The EU is now ready to start negotiations.”
The terms also include a controversial clause stating that Britain should “return unlawfully removed cultural objects to their countries of origin”.
The passage is thought to refer to the Elgin Marbles, which are the ancient Greek sculptures brought to Britain more than 200 years ago and now on display in the British Museum.
Greece has been vocal about demanding the return of the marble sculptures to Athens.
EU seek to ‘uphold access’ to UK fishing waters in risk to trade talks [REVEALED]
Dan Hannan explains why Boris Johnson WILL reclaim UK fishing waters [INSIGHT]
Macron says Boris holds ‘fishing card’ but warns deal unlikely by 2020 [PICTURES]
Downing Street has insisted that the future of the marbles is “not up for discussion as part of our trade negotiations”.
In Westminster, Mr Johnson is chairing a meeting of senior ministers on his Brexit committee ahead of the publication of the UK’s negotiating position on Thursday.
British ministers are expected to seek a Canada-style agreement with zero tariffs, a proposal Mr Johnson and his Europe adviser, David Frost, have set out in speeches in recent weeks.
But the push for a Canada-style deal could set up a clash with the EU after Mr Barnier ruled out such an agreement.
He has previously said the UK is too close in proximity to be permitted to compete with the other 27 member states on such terms.
Mr Frost and his team will head to Brussels for the first round of negotiations on March 2, after being armed with the UK’s own mandate.
The tight time schedule for the talks remains an issue, with European ministers voicing concerns over the Prime Minister’s unwillingness to extend the deadline beyond December.
Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok, arriving at the council meeting in Brussels, warned of the “immense” time pressure facing both sides as they attempt to agree a future trading relationship.
He said: ”The time pressure is immense, the interests are huge – it’s a very complicated treaty – so it will be very hard work. A tough road ahead.”
Simon Coveney, Ireland’s foreign minister, said the EU was making a “generous and fair” offer to the UK, but warned Mr Johnson not to renege on the commitments made in the Withdrawal Agreement.
His comments follow reports that the Prime Minister has ordered his Brexit team to find ways to “get around” the Northern Ireland protocol which aims to avoid the introduction of a hard border on the island of Ireland.
The Prime Minister is expected to meet Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz at Number 10 on Tuesday as part of his diplomatic efforts with EU leaders before talks commence.
Source: Read Full Article