UK Cabinet Minister Michael Gove has warned the devolved Welsh government that London has no plans to surrender fishing rights as EU leaders demand continued access to British waters and Brexit trade negotiations drag on.

On Monday, Gove wrote to Jeremy Miles, Wales’ minister for European transition, and spurned his suggestion that the UK should “back down” over European access to Britain’s rich fisheries.

“I am afraid we strongly disagree with your premise that we should ‘back down’ on fisheries.” 

Gove claimed that the British government is in agreement that the “UK must be an independent coastal state” and not subjected to policy and laws which grant European fisherman access to British waters.

France has been very vocal in their desire not to compromise on the issue. In mid-October, President Emmanuel Macron said France will not accept a deal that “sacrifices our fishermen,” whilst Minister for Europe Clement Beaune tweeted: “One single objective: to defend and protect the interests of fishermen.”

In a recent development, sources told Reuters that the French government had been more accepting of losing access to British fish stocks behind closed doors.

The source, Jerome Vicquelin, a member of a local fishing lobby group, had attended a meeting with Beaune. “They said it won’t be the same as before. For me it’s clear, they just want to try to limit damages as much as possible,” Vicquelin told Reuters. 

The EU’s impasse with London over a post-Brexit trade deal revolves around a number of issues, including EU access to British waters, dispute settlement, and state aid. 

Following the EU Summit on October 15 and 16, Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, stated that the UK needs to make the necessary moves to get a deal done. 

In turn, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab criticized Michel’s remarks, adding that compromise needs to come from both sides.

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