Fisheries still biggest obstacle to Brexit deal, says Ursula von der Leyen – speech in full


EC president Ursula von der Leyen addresses the European Parliament - John Thys/Pool via REUTERS
EC president Ursula von der Leyen addresses the European Parliament – John Thys/Pool via REUTERS

Ursula von der Leyen praised progress in the Brexit trade negotiations on the level playing field guarantees and the deal’s enforcement but warned that talks over fisheries remained very difficult.

The president of the European Commission told MEPs that she could not guarantee a trade deal with Britain but that a “narrow path” to agreement was there.

“This is now a case of being so close and yet being so far away from each other,” she said in a speech to the European Parliament.

She said: “On fisheries, the discussion is still very difficult. We do not question the UK sovereignty on its own waters. But we asked 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 to find a solution.”

She said that the EU and UK had agreed a “strong mechanism” of “non-regression” on labour, social and environmental standards.

Progress had been made on subsidy law towards an agreement that would allow Brussels to take unilateral actions such as tariffs to redress unfair competition from the UK, she said.

“And of course difficulties still remain on the question of how to really future-proof fair competition. But I’m also glad to report that issues linked to governance by now are largely being resolved,” she said.

She added: “Honourable Members, the next days are going to be decisive.”

The statement in full

Our teams are working to try to reach an agreement, working day and night, sometimes against all odds, and I want to pay tribute to all of them. And I want to thank, in particular, our chief negotiator, Michel Barnier [for] his dedication and resilience. 

As things stand, I cannot tell you whether there will be a deal or not. But I can tell you that there is a path to an agreement. Now, the path may be very narrow, but it is there.

And it is therefore our responsibility to continue trying. The good news is that we have found a way forward on most issues.

This is now a case of being so close and yet being so far away from each other because two issues still remain outstanding. You know them: a level playing field, and the fisheries.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen - John Thys/Pool via REUTERS
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen – John Thys/Pool via REUTERS

Now first on the level playing field. Our aim is simply to ensure fair competition on our own market, very simple. And that is we have to establish robust mechanisms.

The architecture we’re working on rests on two pillars: state aid and standards. On state aid, we have made progress, based on common principles.

On standards, we have agreed a strong mechanism of non-regression. That’s a big step forward.

And this is to ensure that our common high labour social and environmental standards will not be undercut.

And of course difficulties still remain on the question of how to really future-proof fair competition. But I’m also glad to report that issues linked to governance by now are largely being resolved.

On fisheries, the discussion is still very difficult.

We do not question the UK sovereignty on its own waters. But we asked for predictability and stability for our fishermen and our fisherwomen.

And in all honesty, it’s sometimes feel that we will not be able to resolve this question. But we must continue to find to try finding a solution.

And it is the only responsible and right course of action.

Honourable Members, the next days are going to be decisive.

So, I know deadlines have been missed, time and again.

The clock puts us all in a very difficult situation, not least this parliament. This exercise [is one of] democratic scrutiny and ratification.

That is why I want to sincerely thank you for your support and your understanding. And I know that if we do get there, I can count on you to ensure good outcome.

As in the past. We must all work these last miles in the same shoes. Thank you so much, and long live Europe.



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