The European Commission and Morocco have failed to strike an agreement which would allow Spanish and Portuguese fishing boats to take catches in Moroccan waters, bringing an unsuccessful end to six months of detailed discussions.

Brussels has failed to square the circle with Morocco, which wanted to reduce the catches that EU fishermen could take, whilst increasing licence fees and imposing burdensome technical conditions.

The result is that the previous agreement, which expired in 1999, and which allowed 500 European boats to exploit catches including tuna and shrimp, will not be renewed, barring any unanticipated surprise moves from Rabat. The Commission has already proposed that EU funds are released to reduce the size of Spain and Portugal's fishing fleets.

By Keith Nuthall, corresponent