Germany warns of bitter battles between EU fishermen unless Brexit deal is agreed

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Fishing chief Kai-Arne Schmidt warned a no deal Brexit would see European boats banned for UK waters. His intervention comes as EU states, such as France and Belgium continue to hold out for status quo access to Britain’s fishing grounds. And Germany’s deputy finance minister and a prestigious economist both pushed for good economic relations between Berlin and London after Brexit.

Their interventions came as Michel Barnier, the EU’s Brexit chief, met UK counterpart Lord Frost ahead of intensive weekend negotiations in the hope of clinching a deal by next week.

Both sides are currently locked in a battle over the key sticking points of access to Britain’s coastal waters and future common standards, including state subsidies for business.

Mr Schmidt, of the Kutterfisch fishing fleet, claimed losing out on access to herring and mackerel in British waters would be detrimental for his firm.

“If there will be a hard Brexit it will mean for us that from January 1 we will no longer be allowed to go into the waters, and this means significant cuts in fishing,” he said.

“This hits us especially hard because the herring swims in those areas, they don’t know anything about borders, fish are not aware of it.”

He said rows could break out between rival European vessels over the remaining stocks in the EU’s coastal waters.

Mr Schmidt said: “The main issue is that all EU fishing boats are affected by the ban and that all EU fishing boats would then meet in the remaining waters. There would be a further concentration and we want to avoid this.”

And in another push for a Brexit deal, Austrian economist Gabriel Felbermayr, of the world-renowned Kiel Institute, said maintaining close economic ties between Britain and Germany was vital for the country’s car-makers.

He told a virtual event: “It is clear that the economic relationship between Germany and the UK is especially important regarding the industry.

“German companies produce in the UK and buy raw materials from the UK for production in Germany. BMW is a perfect example of this, but many other companies do the same. Therefore it is incredibly important that there will be no customs for the trade between Europe and the UK.”

Professor Felbermayr urged the EU to soften its demands for a regulatory level-playing field, which would tie Britain to the bloc’s standards, to help convince Boris Johnson to sign up to an agreement.

The academic said the introduction of trade tariffs between the UK and EU would be highly problematic for German manufacturers, but pushed for a plan to reduce red tape between both sides.

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He added: “I think this is the central point that we urgently need to find an agreement for in the next few days, or we need to at least postpone this disagreement so that we can at least find a solution for customs.

“I could imagine that a hard Brexit would in the end not be that hard because to implement it in a hard way, you need infrastructure, regulations, and officers who enforce it. And I can’t see any of that.”

Joerg Kukies, the deputy finance minister, today warned Berlin risks losing out on vital access to funding from the City of London unless an EU-UK trade agreement is concluded before the end of the year.

He said Chancellor Angela Merkel was “deeply concerned” about the lack of progress in the wrangling over a future relationship pact.

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Mr Kukies said: “German corporates, for all that I can tell, rely massively on wholesale financing offered from the City of London, so in that sense we will have to maintain pragmatism, no matter what happens.

“But at the moment we are deeply conceived by the lack of progress in negotiations.”

Meanwhile, Brussels has threatened to sue Britain over its “justifiably stricter” plant health rules to stop the spread of deadly bacteria and fungi.

The Commission said: “While the EU has proportionate measures in place to protect plants from those plant pests, the UK protective measures are unjustifiably stricter than EU requirements.”

Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg

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