Today we’ll look at the Transition Period Trade Negotiations. Despite Lockdown there are some revealing ‘news’ in the MSM. As the country is in the grip of appeasing BLM by toppling statues right left and centre, while BAME professors tell us about how every achievement this country has had in the past 400 years was based on slavery, Remainers seem content to lurk in the shadow.
First, let’s remind ourselves about the crunch dates coming up this month. For example, the deadline to beg Brussels for an extension is June 30th. The European Council will meet on June 19th to ‘take stock’ of the trade talks so far. On some day in this month Johnson will meet Ms vdLeyen. On June 1st, the Financial Times wrote:
“British officials said they hoped Mr Johnson and Ms von der Leyen would inject “political momentum” into talks that have foundered on disputes over fishing rights and EU demands for common standards on state aid, workers’ rights and the environment. […] Brussels declined to comment on the format or the date of the “high-level” talks, but Downing Street expects Mr Johnson to speak to the commission president in late June.” (link, paywalled)
This ‘talk’ was supposed to take place this weekend, via video conferencing. As ‘Brussels isn’t commenting’, officially, we have to hope that EU ‘sources’ will give some crumbs to the MSM’s Brussels correspondents relating to that talk.
There are two other dates for your diaries. Tomorrow is the second reading of Ed Davey’s Private Members’ Bill which aims to force the government to beg Brussels for a two-year extension to the Transition Period (here). And finally: the customary rotation of the EU Council’s presidency means that it’s Germany’s turn from the 1st of July 2020. How this will influence the negotiations is anybody’s guess but I’ll note in passing that the 1st July will be Day 100 of Lockdown Britain.
Firstly, an unlikely supporter for Brexit and those talks about our fisheries has come to the fore. Today (e.g. here) we read about super-trawlers having fished in our protected waters last year – I don’t think they’ve all suddenly gone home this year. RemainCentral writes:
“Foreign supertrawlers more than doubled the amount of time they spent intensively fishing in UK marine protected areas last year, an investigation has found. The 25 supertrawlers, which are each more than 100m long and can catch hundreds of tonnes of fish a day using nets up to a mile long, collectively spent 2,963 hours in 39 protected areas in 2019, up from 1,388 hours in 2018. The Russian, Dutch and Polish vessels fished in areas that were designated to protect important species and habitats, including harbour porpoises and reefs.” (link, paywalled)
It’s Greenpeace who undertook this study. While RemainCentral dryly writes that these super trawlers were acting legally because ‘we have no protection laws’, Greenpeace
“[…] is urging the Government to work towards the creation of Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs), as recommended in the Department for Environment, Fisheries and the Regions’ Highly Protected Marine Areas review.” (link)
That certainly should happen – but we know that DEFRA, like the rest of Whitehall, isn’t keen to implement anything which could conceivably come under “the EU won’t like it”. Perhaps Greenpeace might like to employ their awesome campaign initiatives to get such Law onto the Statute Books? Perhaps someone might even ask those “Extinction” activists why they haven’t demanded such legislation …
The nationalities of those super trawlers are interesting. There’s Russia – not exactly a member of the EU; Poland – not precisely situated on the North Sea Coast, and the Dutch. Are they trying to rob our waters for as long as they can, given the legal position pertaining from next year? Our friends at facts4eu have a pertinent report:
“On 31 December 2020 the UK will automatically become an independent coastal state. The UK’s 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) will then apply. […] Without an explicit agreement to the contrary, the EU has no legal right to fish in UK waters after 2020, nor to claim inflated quotas for resources that are predominantly in British waters. It will be forced under international laws and conventions to reduce the amount of fish its member states’ fleets can catch in all other waters – dramatically. The EU’s current position is that […] it wants full and unconditional access to the UK’s waters and its fish, exactly as if the United Kingdom were still an EU member state.” (link)
Do read the whole thing – and ponder if doesn’t it look as if the EU maritime member states are trying to tie the talks to fishing quota while letting the far more important issue of super trawlers stay in the shadows.
During the last few days the ‘reports’ from Brussels seem to be contradictory. We read that Barnier was ‘ready to compromise’ (link, paywalled), but is now being ‘urged’ by EU member states not to cave in, as in “not to break cover until British negotiators first concede ground to Brussels.” (link). Here’s an interesting titbit, not from Brussels:
“No 10 fears that Michel Barnier, the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, has lost control of the talks under pressure from France and other countries as a row over access to Britain’s fishing waters threatens to delay progress. David Frost, the UK’s chief negotiator, was ready to explore quotas in terms of numbers and percentages of the catch but the European Commission was unable to go into the detail because of opposition led by France.” (link, paywalled)
That’s why we’re told that Barnier is again prepared to ‘compromise’ if only Frost would meet him ‘halfway’ (link). Our friends at facts4eu have a report on this issue of ‘compromise’ which you might like to read here.
Perhaps EU members will take note of the ‘panic’ of EU farmers who fear a breakdown of the food supply chains should there be no deal at the end of this year (link). Will Macron ‘cave in’ to his farmers, or will he keep supporting his fishermen to the detriment of said farmers? Either of them is bound to protest.
Meanwhile the DT’s Brussels correspondent reports on Barnier’s speech to representatives of the European Economic and Social Committee. This paints a totally different picture which demonstrates yet again that all this talk about ‘compromise’ and ‘quota’ is just shadow boxing because Barnier’s and the EU’s punitive attitude is still at work. See for example this:
“London should lose its status as a European centre for financial and legal services after Brexit, Michel Barnier has said. The EU chief negotiator said Britain should not be allowed to become a stepping stone into the EU market or a manufacturing hub for the bloc after the end of the transition period this year. Mr Barnier [said] that Britain should also not keep its large share of the lucrative market for testing goods to ensure they meet EU standards.” (link)
All the blue-eyed Barnier-talk about quotas and compromises, about level playing fields and the rest is simply make-work when one reads what Brussels really wants. It is obvious that punishment, destruction of our economy, is still Barnier’s main agenda. He says:
“As it prepares to leave the Single Market and leave the Customs Union, we must ask ourselves whether it is really in the EU interest for the UK to retain such a prominent position.” Mr Barnier warned against allowing the UK to assemble materials and goods sourced from all over the world before exporting them to the EU tariff and quota-free as a British good once a trade deal was signed. This “would allow the UK to become a manufacturing hub for the EU”, Mr Barnier said, adding: “Do we really want the UK to remain a centre for commercial litigation for the EU when we could attract these services here?” (link)
That last question allows only one answer: ‘Non! Nein! No!’ But with no deal and with the UK trading under WTO rules, who is going to prevent the EU to start competing with us? Are they so scared of a proper ‘level playing field’, e.g. WTO rules, that they want to forbid us to become ‘a stepping stone’ into their sacred EU market? Does Barnier, does Brussels not know their own statistics according to which they export more to the UK than the UK exports to the EU?
It’s obviously still about punishing us for Brexit – and it’s also about posturing by those EU diplomats who know that after the 31st of December this year their utterances to our Brussels correspondents will become just ‘noises from the off’. Here’s a quote which shows them in their peacocking glory:
“Member states including Germany and France shared Michel Barnier’s dire assessment of the current state of EU-UK talks,” a diplomat told The Telegraph after the negotiator briefed EU ambassadors in Brussels. Ambassadors expressed the need for more realism in London and expect the UK government to honour its commitments from the political declaration on all issues including the ‘level playing field’. Cherry-picking is not an option.” (link)
Note that ‘more realism in London’ means: ‘do as we dictate’. It’s for us to compromise, not for Brussels. And if I read the phrase ‘cherry picking’ one more time I’ll make a voodoo doll of dear Michel!
Meanwhile, we’ve got to wait and see if the shambles that is the Corona-HoC will allow that despicable ‘beg for an extension Bill’ to proceed. We have to wait and see if Johnson will stand for Brexit: ‘tis hard to predict what he’ll do because his government’s catastrophic Lockdown policies show him to be a reed in the wind.
It pains me to say this but our only hope for an end to this farce on the 31st of December rests on a civil servant: David Frost. So let’s hope that Sir Mark Sedwill has his hands full undermining Johnson in the ongoing Lockdown shambles and that time works for Mr Frost.