Europe is offering the UK a comprehensive free trade deal after Brexit – but wants guaranteed access to Britain’s fishing waters.
Donald Tusk, the European Council president, said on Wednesday it should come as “no surprise” that the “only remaining possible model is a free trade agreement”.
Presenting Europe’s draft position on Brexit, he said the EU wanted an “ambitious and advanced” agreement with zero tariffs on goods.
And, buried on the third page of the position document, is this: “This agreement would address… trade in goods, with the aim of covering all sectors, which should be subject to zero
tariffs and no quantitative restrictions with appropriate accompanying rules of origin.
“In this context, existing reciprocal access to fishing waters and resources should be
Tusk used his speech to warn UK prime minister Theresa May that a “pick and mix” approach to signing up to single market areas she liked was not acceptable.
However, critics seized on the EU draft guidelines as apparently doing exactly that.
Ukip interim leader Gerard Batten MEP said: “The EU wants to have its cake and to eat it.
“It is incredible beyond belief that the EU has the gall to ask for free access to British fishing waters once we have left the EU. They want our money and our fisheries – this is completely unacceptable.”
He added any Brexit deal must also include financial services – something chancellor Philip Hammond addressed during a speech to EU leaders later on Wednesday.
And vocal Brexit campaigner and former Ukip leader Nigel Farage MEP said Brexit voters would feel betrayed if Theresa May signed away full control of British waters.
“Our coastal fishing communities have this one last chance,” he said.
“Time for Mrs May to handbag Barnier and say we will take our waters back. This is the acid test of Brexit.”
Tusk warned whatever the outcome of the negotiations, both sides would suffer economically – but the UK would come off worse.
“Our agreement will not make trade between the UK and EU frictionless or smoother,” he said.
“It will make it more complicated and costly than today for all of us. This is the essence of Brexit.”
A European Parliament document, leaked to Politico website, says non-EU members – even if very closely aligned to the bloc – cannot expect the same rights and benefits as EU members.