With yet another Brexit deadline approaching, a breakthrough on fishing rights remained as elusive as ever for the EU and UK on Sunday, increasing the possibility of a no-deal Brexit on New Year’s Day.
Although the financial impact of fishing on Europe’s economies is negligible, it is the issue which arouses fiercest passions.
With millions of jobs at stake in other trades across the economy, the tiny sector of fisheries continues to drive the deepest wedge between the 27-nation bloc and the UK.
European fishing boats are desperate to keep their rights to fish in Britain’s huge and profitable waters and British fishermen are determined to force them out, highlighting the animosity that has driven them to the Brexit divorce.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office said that the EU is “continuing to make demands that are incompatible with our independence. We cannot accept a deal that doesn’t leave us in control of our own laws or waters.”
A senior British government official said that both sides “have been negotiating throughout the day and expect to continue tomorrow. Talks remain difficult and significant differences remain.”
Deadlines for an agreement have been set and missed throughout the four-year divorce proceedings.
The almost mythical sense of Britannia’s rights to rule its waves was an essential part of what drove Brexiteers to victory in the 2016 referendum. Johnson is seeking to make sure that as much as possible of the shared British waters are now returned to UK vessels only, reports the AP.
The EU has always maintained that those waters have been shared for decades, if not centuries, and insists if too many fishing rights are taken away, it will punish Britain by imposing hefty import fees to the mainland market, which is essential to the UK seafood industry.