As negotiations enter their final phase before the UK leaves the internal market and customs union at the end of the year, the answer still depends largely on the so-called level playing field. The other major obstacle to a quick agreement on a limited free trade agreement is fisheries. The EU has taken a political decision to put fisheries at the forefront of the queue of difficult issues that need to be resolved. They insist that an agreement be reached by June this year, before the detailed conclusion of the free trade agreement, making protecting the status quo of EU fishing rights in British waters a precondition for a broader free trade agreement. Fishing is an issue of marginal economic importance, but of extreme political sensitivity, and not just for the United Kingdom. It is the struggle for the survival of a traditional way of life in often isolated fishing communities. Fishing rights are considered a zero-sum game. The emotional fishing is a major reason why, on two occasions in referendums, the Norwegian people have rejected the wishes of their political establishment to join the EU. In the political statement, the UK had agreed to the deadline for a fisheries agreement in June, but this was accompanied by a similar delay to allow the EU to make its own autonomous “adequacy decisions” on the regulation of financial services and data transfers in the UK, which are potentially of crucial importance to important sectors of the UK economy.
The Council`s decision does not deal with these “autonomous” EU decisions. It is obvious that there could be trade with real economic benefits for Britain. But it will be a difficult sale in our fishing communities after the extravagant promises that are always made. As David Hannay said in the Lords debate, “it is not too late to reach mutually beneficial fisheries agreements that offer a better offer to our fishermen than in the past, as long as we do not pursue all or nothing.” In fact, it wanted the United Kingdom to agree on a legal framework for competition rules, which was largely in line with its own, excluding the differences of opinion of a strong independent regulator. Many subsidies and other forms of aid are used by governments to encourage companies – owned by the state or otherwise – that want to keep them in business or see them succeed in international markets.