Today, Mr Johnson may have made a key error in negotiations as he scaled down his demands for UK control over its own waters. Sources in Brussels have reportedly been told by EU negotiator Michel Barnier that the UK is now only demanding a return of up to 60 percent of EU catches in UK waters, down from 80 percent. A senior EU diplomat told British media: “Barnier said the coming hours were going to be decisive to which the response was: ‘what’s the rush?’” “Ambassadors for every country bordering the UK – 11 all in all – raised concerns on the level playing field and suggested that he was at the edge of his negotiating mandate.”
Fishing has been at the heart of the Brexit debate since campaigning in 2016, and has also been one of the main issues standing in the way of a trade deal with the EU.
Mr Barnier has told the UK it cannot access European markets if the EU is not granted satisfactory access to British fishing grounds.
The vast majority of fishermen in the UK voted leave in 2016, hoping they would gain substantially more control over quotas.
Mr Johnson’s climbdown could spark fury in Scotland, where fishermen warned the Government last month that the Prime Minister would receive a “kicking” from the British fishing industry if a deal is not satisfactory.
In September, Barrie Deas, chair of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO), said they still feared being “sold out” by the Government in trade talks.
He added: “Fishing is a litmus test for Brexit. We will know very soon, we will know this year, whether we’ve got a good deal on fishing or not.
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He said: “It’s like someone renting a property off you, terminating the agreement, and then demanding they keep 80 percent of the back garden.
“Who is going to agree to that? That’s not how it works. It’s absurd.
“There is no court in the world the EU could go to that would uphold their right to keep our sovereign fishing grounds.”