Brexit deal could 'unravel’ over failed fishing deal says expert
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Jayne Adye has called for the Prime Minister to give Brexit Minister Lord David Frost real power to stand up to Brussels by making Britain’s “divorce deal” payments to the bloc contingent on the resolution of the row over fishing access and the cessation of French threats. Ms Adye was speaking in a week in which Lord Frost and Clement Beaune, France’s Minister for Europe, met for talks aimed at defusing the dispute.
French President Emmanuel Macron was angered at the number of fishing licences granted to French vessels, and has threatened to impose retaliatory measures including increased border and sanitary checks on goods from Britain as well as banning British vessels from some French ports.
But despite the meeting between Lord Frost and Mr Beaune, Ms Adye warned the dispute would not be resolved without Mr Johnson adopting a tougher stance.
She said: “Time and again since his election as Leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister in 2019, Boris Johnson has claimed he is on the side of UK fishermen.
“He has promised to protect their interests in talks with the European Union and to ‘Level-up’ coastal communities which have been abandoned for so long.
“However, the reality has seen the UK fishing industry pushed further down the pecking order, ready to be sacrificed in order to get the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement across the line.”
Until Mr Johnson makes protecting the UK fishing industry and the sovereignty of its waters a priority, President Macron will continue to “play political games and make threats against the UK”, Ms Adye claimed.
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The current attitude of simply trying to sweep problems under the carpet will not work
She said: “The current attitude of simply trying to sweep problems under the carpet will not work, and the PM’s failure to keep his promises to the UK fishing industry will not be forgotten.”
Referring to Fisheries Minister Victoria Presents, she added: “Perhaps I would be convinced the PM cared more about the issue if he had appointed a Minister responsible for fisheries who actually seemed engaged on the topic – or at the very least represented a coastal community.
Ms Adye said she was ”grateful” for Lord Frost’s involvement to ensure Brexiteers had a ‘voice in the room’.
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However, she insisted: “Lord Frost must be given real ammunition to hit back and shift the balance towards the UK.
“For example, it’s about time the UK makes the payment of the so-called ‘Divorce Bill’ conditional on the resolution of fishing talks and the end to French threats?
“In 2021 alone we are set to send £7 billion to the EU, with £5 billion to follow in 2022.
“Why on earth should we send this money to a hostile foreign organisation which so obviously has no interest in being our true ‘friend and partner’?
“Until Prime Minister Johnson shows French President Macron he is serious about real support for the UK’s fishing industry and UK fishermen, this merry-go-round of threats and crisis will continue for years to come.”
In accordance with the Trace and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), European boats which have historically fished in UK waters are required to be issued licences that will permit them to keep doing so.
Britain insists it has done so in respect of all who have provided the correct paperwork – but France claims the UK has failed to live up to its commitments by rejecting some applications.
Officials in London say they have granted 98 percent of licences.
But the dispute centres on access for small boats of under 12 metres wishing to fish in the UK six-to-12 nautical mile zone.
Mr Macron and his colleagues are unhappy the UK originally granted just 12 licences out of 47 applications for such smaller vessels, with the figure having since risen to 18.
France’s anger was illustrated by the recent seizure of the Scottish scallop dredger Cornelis Gert Jan, which was then tied up in Le Havre prior to a court case that concluded it should be released.
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