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Europe reacts to ‘damage control’ Brexit deal

Spanish fishermen returning to port.
Spanish fishermen returning to port.

European politicians and media outlets have been sharing their reaction to the new Brexit deal that sets the scene for an altered relationship between Britain and its closest trading partners.

Despite a glut of festive feel-good stories trying to engender Christmas spirit at the end of a dispiriting year, news about a Brexit trade deal struck al ultimo hora elbowed its way into the headlines of media outlets around Europe.

While there’s a focus on the collective sigh of relief that a deal – that any deal, perhaps – has been agreed between the two sides, there are also comments on issues important across our region, like fishing and independence.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

Spanish public broadcaster RTV reported that Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez had welcomed the deal and congratulated EU negotiators, as  local newspapers drilled down on the outcome for the country’s fishing fleet, the EU’s biggest by total tonnage.

The Faro de Vigo newspaper, serving an audience on the Atlantic northwest coast, with a strong fishing heritage, reports the Brexit deal will cost the local fleet losses of €190 million.

The paper quotes a fishing association official who described December 24 as “a black day” and that “any loss of fishing rights that we have had for centuries is a great blow to our fishermen”.

‘We expect fishermen to lose their livelihoods’

Danish public broadcaster DR also quotes a local fisheries association official who says of the Brexit deal: “We expect fishermen to lose their livelihoods, and it will be a hard blow against Denmark, and North and West Jutland, where fishing plays a special role and is the lifeblood of many local communities.”

French radio station Europe 1 talked to workers in the channel port of Bolougne-sur-Mer a few hours before the Brexit deal was announced. They reported a sense of relief for fishermen who spend up to 70% of their time in UK waters, who now at least know what the immediate future holds.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

And in Norway, public broadcaster NRK quoted Prime Minister Erna Solberg saying “an orderly British exit from the EU, and the single market is important for all EEA parties, including Norway”.

However the broadcaster also highlighted the need to re-start talks on fisheries quotas and zone access, which are stalled despite a bilateral framework agreement on fisheries cooperation that was signed between the UK and Norway in the autumn.

Brexit deal is ‘damage control’

Among other Northern European countries there’s been a cautious welcome to the agreement, hedged with a reality check.

“This is damage control” says Finland’s Europe Minister, Tytti Tuppurainen, “since the new relationship lacks the benefits of the single market. This was the will of the UK.”

She stressed that her government and parliament, like some others in the 27-nation bloc, will have to go over the details of the agreement in detail and vote to approve it.

“The agreement is mutually beneficial and issues of crucial importance to the EU, such as level playing field, have been taken into account,” Tuppurainen notes.

Several Finnish newspapers also picked up comments from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon about Scottish independence, as did Iceland’s public broadcaster.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

With the headline “Time for Scotland to become independent”, RÚV journalists quoted Ms Sturgeon’s tweets that “Brexit is happening against Scotland’s will”.

Estonia’s ERR quotes Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu striking a more hopeful note as the EU and UK negotiating teams finally came to an agreement, just a few days before the Brexit transition period expired.

“This news is a ray of light in international relations over a new year of turmoil”

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