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The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator said the bloc would be willing to accept British demands for zonal attachment, dropping pressure to allow the UK to break from the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Giving evidence to the House of Lords on June 23, Mr Barnier appeared to offer a major compromise on fishing, which has been among the most contentious issues during trade talks.
The transcript of the meeting was published on Monday, hours before he arrived in London for the latest round of post-Brexit trade discussions with David Frost.
But Simon Collins, executive officer of the Shetland Fishermen’s Association, warned against viewing Mr Barnier’s words as a generous offer.
He pointed out that under international law the UK is no longer bound to the CFP.
Mr Collins told Express.co.uk: “Barnier is playing a bit to the gallery there.
“It’s a bit like saying he’ll allow the sun to come up – which is very generous of him because it’s no longer in his gift actually.
“He’s offering a concession over something which he actually has no power over because the default position in international law is once we left the EU, which we did legally at the end of January, we then have all the rights and responsibilities of an independent coastal state.
“So we are actually in charge of our waters – that’s the default legal position.
“So what Barnier is doing is he’s giving his gracious permission to be where we already are legally.
“He’s obviously a very experienced and intelligent man.
“He’s making what looks like a concession to the gallery.
“In fact, it’s not a concession because under international law that’s the default position.”
Mr Collins said when post-Brexit trade talks kicked off earlier this year the two sides could not have been further apart on the issue of fishing.
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He said the EU was keen to see Britain “remain a colony” and made their message loud and clear: “We will decide what happens in your waters”.
Mr Barnier arrived in London on Tuesday for the latest round of trade talks and was treated to a fish supper with Mr Frost at No.10.
The pair dined on halibut over what was described by Mr Barnier as a “useful discussion”.
Brussels’ Brexit frontman said the two sides will “continue negotiating in good faith today” following the “nice dinner” last night.
Mr Collins said given how stubborn the EU acted earlier this year while sticking to its demands, any offers now would appear generous.
He said given that both sides started out the negotiations miles apart on fishing “any noise that he makes now that looks to be a conciliatory, I think, is trying to obscure the extreme position of the EU at the moment”.
Mr Collins said he remains hopeful a good trade deal can be agreed before December 31.
He added: “I think we are reasonably positive. The industry has such a long history of being let down so we’ve never until anything is signed, sealed and delivered we wouldn’t be celebrating. So at the moment the room music seems positive.
“So far, I don’t think we’ve been sold out yet.
“But we’ve been betrayed before so there’s always a note of caution with us.”
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