Dhaka, Bangladesh
EU doubles down on fishing ahead of Brexit talks

EU doubles down on fishing ahead of Brexit talks

BRUSSELS, Feb 13: The EU has toughened its demands on fishing for upcoming talks with Britain and language on human rights, while also asking for cooperation on international health scares, a draft showed Wednesday, reports AFP. EU member states are currently working over the final wording of the bloc’s mandate for trade negotiations with a view to approving it in time to launch talks with Britain in early March. Sources told AFP that EU diplomats spent hours poring over the 46-page document, with France especially insisting on taking the time to nail down and strengthen the EU’s position. In a draft of the mandate seen by AFP the EU has updated wording on how to handle the already controversial issue of EU access to British fishing waters. The diplomats’ document now demands any deal “uphold” existing arrangements and no longer just “build on them”. This will provoke Britain which intends to secure full autonomy for its waters, with annual negotiations that would limit access to European fishermen. Some diplomats told AFP they were worried that the stronger stance on fishing was “not realistic”, but the tougher wording won the day under the guidance of France. The EU has also given Britain’s continued membership of the European Convention on Human Rights a far more prominent role in the mandate, insisting it should constitute “an essential element for the cooperation envisaged in the partnership”. Britain’s membership to the convention, often criticised by sovereigntist Brexiteers in the UK, was previously just a specific condition for cooperation on law enforcement. The new mandate draft spells out for the first time that the EU and UK will must agree on health emergencies, a hot topic with the spread of coronavirus out of China. “The parties should cooperate in matters of health security in line with existing Union arrangements with third countries,” the draft said. EU ministers are set to approve the mandate on February 25. The bloc’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said that fishing, maintaining fair trading conditions for European companies and security are the EU’s top priorities in the talks that should run until the end of the year.

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