The EU is considering making a more explicit link between energy and fish as the Brexit negotiations enter a critical phase, @rtenews understands.
2/ A number of sources have confirmed that the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier will seek to use the leverage of the EU’s energy market as a potential way of unblocking the UK’s resistence to granting European fishing fleets ongoing access to British waters.
3/ It’s understood Mr Barnier has privately acknowledged a potential link between continued access to the EU’s energy market – which diplomats say is potentially highly valuable to the UK – and the fisheries aspect of the negotiations, which remains deadlocked.
4/ “The position of the UK [on fish] is quite strong," says an EU official, “but there are also connections. Sometimes the UK is interested in having access to [the single market] on energy.”
5/ One EU diplomat told RTE News: “The energy market is considerably more valuable to [the UK] than the entire fish stock that they’re talking about. Barnier seems to have paused the discussions on energy for the moment, and this link has been made with fish.”
6/ As an EU member state, the UK has been part of the single energy market, trading energy to and from the European continent via electricity and gas interconnectors. There is an increasing view in Brussels that this is a valuable market which cd be implicitly linked to fisheries
7/ The fisheries negotiations have been stalled, with the EU seeking to retain as much access to UK waters, and as much quota for species that straddle EU-UK waters, as possible.
8/ The UK has insisted that as an independent coastal state after Brexit, it should control the lion’s share of both access and quota share.
9/ It’s understood that negotiations on the access the UK will have to the EU’s energy market as a third country were close to being finalised.
10/ However, officials say the EU has been reluctant to close individual chapters of the talks as that would weaken the EU's position on the most difficult outstanding issues, such as fisheries, the so-called level playing field, and governance.
11/ Officials caution that the EU will *not* use energy as a “hostage” in order to secure concessions on fisheries, but that holding out on closing the energy chapter would strengthen the EU’s hand.
12/ “In that context, there’s no point in finalising things like energy, which are in the UK’s interest,” says one official familiar with the negotiations.
13/ Energy generated by wind, electricity and gas is traded across the EU’s internal energy market via interconnectors using electronic spot trades.
14/ Once the Brexit transition period ends on January 1, the UK will not enjoy the same access to the market. Negotiations have been underway that would grant the UK limited, but still valuable, access to the EU’s energy market.
15/ According to a European Parliament report in 2017, the EU-UK electricity and gas market was worth some €6 billion in 2015, more than 80 percent of which was in natural gas.
16/ The UK has become a significant importer of natural gas from the EU and Norway, but is an exporter of gas to Ireland and Belgium.
17/ The UK sells electricity to France, Ireland and the Netherlands, but has also been a net importer of electricity from France and the Netherlands, depending on demand and weather fluctuations.

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More from @tconnellyRTE

16 Oct
Taoiseach Micheal Martin has responded to @BorisJohnson's declaration that British businesses should prepare for no deal:
Martin said an agreement can be reached btwn the EU + UK and that on the basis of @MichelBarnier's presentation yesterday there was "clearly room for a deal"
2/ He added: “From an objective analysis, it would seem to me that anybody looking in would say, there is the basis of an agreement, clearly not an agreement at any price.”
3/ .@MichealMartinTD said there remained a number of outstanding areas of disagreement, such as fisheries, the level playing field and governance.
Read 5 tweets
16 Oct
Quick take from Brussels on @BorisJohnson’s No Deal threat:
Officials are relatively relaxed. Note @vonderleyen tweet saying that negotiations will resume on Monday, ie business as usual...
Ongoing bemusement over the line that the EU has refused to grant the UK a “Canada-style FTA”. Canada was never the model, say officials, as that would have meant a line by line negotiation on tariffs
Read 9 tweets
15 Oct
Taoiseach Micheal Martin says there remain "difficulties and challenges" in securing an overall Brexit deal, and that there hasn’t yet been sufficient movement from the UK on the level playing field, governance and fisheries to suggest a deal could be done.
2/ He was speaking after @MichelBarnier briefed leaders at the #euco on the state of play in the negotiations
3/ Martin said the UK Internal Market Bill had strengthened the EU's resolve to ensure a robust dispute settlement mechanism.
Read 9 tweets
15 Oct
Taoiseach Micheal Martin has said fishing communities on the Irish seaboard must be protected in any free trade agreement with the UK, but that it was in everyone’s interests for a deal to be reached.
2/ Arriving at the #EUCO Martin said there were still tough negotiations ahead, but that there had been “good engagement” between both sides in recent weeks.

The Taoiseach was due to meet the French President Emmanuel Macron ahead of the summit to discuss the fisheries issue.
3/ Mr Martin said the outstanding issues of the level playing field, how disputes are resolved (governance), and fisheries remained “significantly challenging.”
Read 9 tweets
14 Oct
Statement from Downing St on video call between @BorisJohnson @vonderleyen and @eucopresident
“This evening the Prime Minister spoke with Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission and Charles Michel, President of the European Council.
“The leaders discussed the latest state of play of the negotiations on our future relationship with the EU, ahead of the October European Council.
Read 5 tweets
13 Oct
Following this morning's briefing of EU foreign + Europe ministers by @MichelBarnier in Luxembourg here's a sense of expectations ahead of this week's #EUCO:
2/ The EU wants to dedramatise the mtg: ie, this was @BorisJohnson's deadline not the EU's. So far there are Council draft conclusions on Covid 19, Africa + climate - but nothing on Brexit. That won't come till after a morning mtg of EU ambassdors and is expected to be bland
3/ Barnier said there has been movement on the level playing field (LPF), including state aid, and referenced @DavidGHFrost's statement to the House of Lords EU Cttee last week as movement
Read 15 tweets

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