Panicked Brussels ramps up no-deal Brexit plans – grants for EU fishermen forced to close

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The bloc wants to revive previous contingency measures to preserve vital air and road transport links with the UK. And eurocrats are also working out how to spend a special €5 billion Brexit fund to assist the countries most impacted by the lack of a EU-UK trade pact. Brussels sources said France, Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands would be set for the largest windfalls.

The European Commission has been asked to unveil “unilateral solutions” to cover the most disruptive elements of a no-deal Brexit.

The decision to ramp up preparations comes after Boris Johnson announced he would walk out of the trade negotiations until the EU makes a “fundamental change of approach”.

Under the plans, “unilateral contingency” measures would be put in place to make sure “basic road and air traffic” is still in place, according to one source.

But the insider added: “It will be very disruptive.”

Under previous no-deal Brexit contingency measures, drawn up during Britain’s divorce talks, the EU allowed UK-licensed carriers to provide basic passenger and freight flights between Britain and the 27 member states.

UK airlines were given permission to fly from the UK to EU countries, they were allowed allowed to make stops in the bloc and fly over its airspace.

Last year the Commission said: “The transport connectivity measures are not intended to replicate the status quo under EU law, but rather to preserve basic connectivity between the EU and the UK.”

A similar package is expected to put on the table, and will be subject to the UK reciprocating the arrangements.

And under a no-deal Brexit, European fishing vessels will have no rights to access Britain’s coastal waters.

The two sides are currently working on a fisheries pact as part of the wrangling over a post-Brexit trade agreement.

But the contentious issue has remained one of the key sticking points as both the EU and UK struggle to overcome “stark differences” in position.

Much the of EU’s €5 billion “adjustment” fund is expected to be spent propping up northern Europe’s fishing industry.

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Belgium has already warned its fleets face the threat of extinction if they are prevented from operating in British waters.

And France’s Emmanuel Macron is fighting hard to ensure his country’s boats can still take advantage of the stocks in the English Channel.

A document published during the 2019 withdrawal talks said: “In a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, access to UK waters will be governed by United Kingdom legislation in accordance with international law.

“UK vessels will no longer have automatic access to EU waters, and vice versa.”

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The Commission announced it would issue financial grants to compensate fishermen who are forced to close their businesses because of loss of access to UK waters.

The contingency measures will need to be in place ahead of December 31, when Britain quits the EU’s customs union and single market after a transition from the bloc’s rules.

They will then be activated if there is still no trade and security deal in place between both sides.

Lord Frost, Boris Johnson’s Brexit envoy, is expected to hold further talks with EU counterpart Michel Barnier later today. 

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