The Brexit Diaries: 3 - Fish, civil rights and the city | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 03.07.2017
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The Brexit Diaries: 3 - Fish, civil rights and the city

It's about control: at least when it comes to fish, the UK has made a catch. Citizens' rights, though, remain contentious and concern consumes the financial sector in London.

It was one of the rare positive moments in the realm of Brexit. Environment Minister Michael Gove triumphantly announced that the United Kingdom would finally regain control over its fish. Perhaps the BBC could have accompanied this patriotic news with a rendition of "Rule Britannia" dominating the airwaves?

The Sunday Express' headline of "No foreign fishing in our waters" had a certain parochial glee to it. The fact that the old 1964 fisheries agreement - to which Britain was also a party - has essentially entered into the EU's common fisheries policy, did not seem to trouble the tabloid. Euroskeptic cabinet returnee Michael Gove mustered a smile as he announced a "historic step" forward: "It means for the first time in more than 50 years we will be able to decide who can access our waters."

Fish and Chips (Colourbox)

Now Brexit is really bringing home the bacon

Even if fishing makes up only 0.07 percent of the British economy, Gove enthusiastically declared, "we are taking back control," quoting from Psalm 1 of the Leavers' hymnbook. Unfortunately, this is only true for waters 6-12 miles off the British coast. Only with Brexit can the full 200-mile zone be freed from foreign fishermen. Control, it seems, is reclaimed in baby steps.

It remains to be seen whether fish will now properly school themselves into areas just off the British coast, never straying those extra meters towards European lures. But these are mere details. What did the departing dolphins so presciently tell us when fleeing the planet in "A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"? So long, and thanks for all the fish.

In the end, Gove tried to explain to the audience the specific problems with Ireland and a bilateral fisheries agreement called "Voisinage." At that point, veteran BBC host Andrew Marr took back control of the interview on his Sunday show.

UK | Theresa May baut Kabinett um - Michael Gove verlässt Downing Street 10 (Getty Images/C. J. Ratcliff)

Gove, in Cameron's cabinet and now back in May's, was one of very few Tories with something to cheer after the election

There's no place like home

In Brussels, Prime Minister Theresa May's proposal regarding the reciprocal rights of citizens on both sides of the future Brexit Iron Curtain dropped like a lead balloon. And the longer it stays grounded, the greater the rage of those affected. It's not only EU citizens living in the UK going to the barricades.

Last week, 11 organizations of exiled Britons from Spain, Germany and other EU countries complained about their situation to Michel Barnier's negotiating team in Brussels. Even if their right to stay is guaranteed in their new homeland, they lose their rights as EU citizens. For example, they could no longer move freely from Spain to France but only back to the motherland of Great Britain - so such a Brexit has quite a few unpleasant consequences. At this point, only a political upheaval in London could help.The Brexit Diaries: 2 - ambition, clarity and more patriotism

Angst in the City

The City of London also wishes for a coup that would upend the the ruling hard Brexit doctrine. While the government busies itself with small fry (quite literally), anxiety abounds in the financial district. The ambiguity about the strategy of the UK's chief negotiator David Davis continues, which is why bankers are now taking back control of their fate. This week, a delegation to Brussels will make a proposal on a free-trade agreement for banks to guarantee the recognition of rules and mutual access.

UK | Blick auf das Geböude der Europäischen Bankenaufsichtsbehörde (picture-alliance/empics/M. Crossik)

Britain's influential bankers are lobbying for continued, frictionless trade

London officials have estimated that the loss of market access to the eurozone would cost British banks 15 billion euros for restructuring and a further 40 billion euros for additional capital requirements. However, European exporters who sell their goods to the UK through British banks are also affected. Loans could become more expensive; smooth transactions could be in trouble.

Michel Barnier, however, always offers up the same answer to these questions: First, we negotiate the divorce, then the future relationship. And so far there hasn't been much progress. London banks are still in the first stages of talks about moving.

Downward trend

Economists and others are now expressing concern about the influence of Brexit on the economic development of the country. Recent statistics are sobering, and not just for those in the "Remain" camp.

UK economic growth stood at 0.2 percent in the previous available quarter - the lowest growth in the EU as a whole, and trending downward. Even Italy is doing better - which is considered a particular vulgarity in London.

David's moonshot

Minister for Brexit David Davis, on the other hand, is regarded as a cavalier character who can't often be deterred by reality or its problems. But after his first meeting with the Brussels negotiating team, this dyed-in-the-wool Leaver has started to change his tune a little: "Brexit is as difficult as a moon landing," he conceded last week in a talk with business leaders, which soon landed in the newspapers.

His confession of the difficulties involved prompted online criticism of the Tories' personnel and efforts, when stacked up against Apollo XI's preparation for such a historic and significant mission.

The Brexit Diaries: 1 - the start

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