The UK Foreign Secretary says he sees an agreement on competition rules and state aid likely if the EU is “sensible”.
Boris Johnson officials believe that a Brexit trade deal could be reached in a matter of days if both sides continue to work in “good faith” to resolve what the UK sees as the last major obstacle in the talks – fishing rights.
Foreign Minister Dominic Raab urged the European Union to recognize that regaining control of British waters is a matter of sovereignty for Britain. He painted a positive picture of the state of negotiations and said he believed that a fish deal should be “achievable” during what could be the final week of talks.
“I think it is important that the EU understands the principle,” said Raab of Sophy Ridge on Sky News on Sunday. “If they show the pragmatism, goodwill and good faith that I believe to be fair to have surrounded the latter part of the talks, and certainly we have shown in our flexibility, I think there is a deal to be done.”
If the negotiations fail, millions of businesses and consumers will face higher costs, with tariffs on goods and disruptions to critical supply chains. The Brexit transition period ends on December 31, when the United Kingdom is supposed to leave the EU single market and customs regime.
In a series of radio interviews on Sunday, the foreign minister sounded optimistic.
Raab said while fishing remained the biggest obstacle, he could see “a landing zone” for an agreement on competition rules and state aid – the other major sticking point – if the EU was as “sensible” as the UK. The EU insists that the UK must compromise.
While the cost of exiting the EU’s single market and customs system appears to be dwarfed by the economic impact of the coronavirus, the pandemic’s recession also means that both sides should do whatever it takes to avoid further damage, he said . That means compromises on both sides.
“Ultimately, both sides have to be a little flexible and pragmatic,” said Raab. “I think the two-way economic benefit of getting this across the line should keep the mind focused in the last few days.”
Raab told BBC’s Andrew Marr that, given the progress negotiators have made on other issues, the two sides should be able to reach an agreement on fisheries.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, said the bloc could accept a 15% to 18% cut in its share of catches in British waters.
The offer, which officials on both sides said was made more than a month ago and has been the subject of negotiation since then, was labeled “risky” by the UK and Raab again turned it down on Sunday.
The UK also wants new negotiations on UK fishing fleets’ access to UK waters every year, but the bloc is looking for a longer-term deal. The personal talks will continue in London.