British and European Union Brexit negotiators have been showing pragmatism and “good faith” during the recent talks and “there’s a deal to be done” potentially this week, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Sunday.
Raab said the big outstanding issue to resolve in the final few days of talks on a new trade deal is fishing rights. He called on the EU to recognize that regaining control over British waters is a question of sovereignty for the UK.
“I think it’s important that the EU understand the point of principle,” Raab told the Sophy Ridge on Sunday show on Sky News. “If they show the pragmatism, the goodwill and the good faith that in fairness I think has surrounded the last leg of the talks and certainly we’ve shown in our flexibility, I think there’s a deal to be done.”
If negotiations fail, millions of businesses and consumers will face higher costs, with tariffs on goods as well as disruption to critical supply chains. The Brexit transition period ends on December 31, when the UK is scheduled to leave the EU’s single market and customs regime.
In a series of broadcast interviews on Sunday, the foreign secretary sounded optimistic about the prospects of an agreement with talks entering what could be their final week.
Raab said while fishing remained the major obstacle, he could see “a landing zone” for a deal on competition rules and state aid - the other major sticking point - if the EU is as “reasonable” as the UK has been. The EU insists the onus is on the UK to compromise.
While the cost of leaving the EU’s single market and customs regime appears to be dwarfed by the economic impact of the coronavirus, the pandemic recession also means both sides should do all they can to help avoid any further damage, he said. That will mean further compromises on both sides.
“At the end of the day it requires both sides to be a little bit flexible and pragmatic,” Raab said. “I do think the economic two-way advantage of getting this over the line ought to focus minds in the last few days.”
Raab told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that the two sides “ought to” be able to get to an agreement on fishing, given the progress negotiators have made on other issues.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, said the bloc could accept a cut of 15% to 18% in its share of the catch in British waters. The offer, which officials on both sides said was made more than a month ago and which has been the subject of negotiation since, was described as “risible” by the UK and Raab rejected it again on Sunday.
The UK also wants new negotiations each year on access to British waters for EU fishing fleets, but the bloc is seeking a longer-term agreement. Face to face talks are continuing in London.