BRUSSELS’ demands on fishing have been watered down in a major concession to Boris Johnson ahead of next week’s trade talks.
Michel Barnier published the EU’s draft version of a Free Trade Agreement with Britain, including its position on access to waters.
The dossier says the UK and EU should look only to “respect existing fishing activities” rather than uphold the status quo as previously sought.
And it includes plans for annual negotiations on quotas based on scientific advice rather than historical patterns — a key demand tabled by the Prime Minister.
The move comes after EU officials warned member states they would have to accept a compromise on fishing or risk the entire deal.
Access to UK waters is a key demand for nine nations, including France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany.
An EU source said Britain’s demand for a Norway-style deal on fishing was understandable but Brussels wanted long-term certainty for trawler crews.
The source said: “The game is not to take away the predictable framework completely, otherwise it basically destroys the fishing business.”
The draft deal also has softer-than -expected demands on the UK keeping EU rules after Brexit.
It includes clauses committing Britain to maintain current standards on the environment and labour but says it can achieve that how it wishes.
Yet, there is a hard-line demand for the UK to continue applying EU state aid law, including jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, which will enrage Brexiteers.
Negotiator Mr Barnier’s decision to rush through the publication of the draft ahead of the UK announcing its own text drew criticism from some EU capitals.
One EU diplomat said the move was a “huge risk” that could hand the initiative to London.
Face-to-face talks between British and EU teams have been cancelled next week over coronavirus fears but they are considering carrying them out via video-conference.