A clash over EU access to British fishing waters could still sink hopes of a post-Brexit trade deal, Ursula von der Leyen has said, with agreement said to be “so close but yet … so far away”.
In an address to the European parliament, the European commission president said the issue of domestic subsidies, so long a thorn in the side of the negotiators, had been resolved.
She reported that legal assurances that environmental, social and labour standards would not be undercut had also been secured, with fruitful continuing discussions on “future-proofing” against unfair competition offering a clear path to an agreement.
But Von der Leyen told MEPs that remaining disagreements on the future arrangements for European fishing fleets in UK waters could yet scupper the nine months of negotiations at the 11th hour.
“The discussion is still very difficult,” Von der Leyen said. “We do not question the UK sovereignty on its own waters. But we ask for predictability and stability for our fishermen and our fisherwomen.
“And in all honesty, it sometimes feels that we will not be able to resolve this question. But we must continue to try finding a solution. And it is the only responsible and right course of action.”