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Sunday, February 25, 2024

Frost: EU needs to get used to UK controlling its own fishing waters

The EU needs to “get used to” the UK having control over its own fishing waters post-Brexit or else there will continue to be “difficulties”, according to Lord David Frost.

The minister for UK-EU relations also told MPs yesterday that the post-Brexit relationship will be “a bit bumpy for a time”.

There have been complaints from France about the rate at which the UK is giving out licences to its fishermen.

The issue blew up two weeks ago when more than 60 French fishing boats created a blockade around the island of Jersey, leading Boris Johnson to send two Royal Navy gunboats to patrol the protest.

French president Emmanuel Macron sent his own naval ships in retaliation.

Frost told parliament’s European Scrutiny Committee that “fishing organisations and so on thought we had agreed five and a half years of no change – that’s not the case”.

“We have the right to write regulate our own waters in a totally different way to licence fishing vessels and so on. Getting used to that is at the root at some of the difficulties,” he said.

“We have licenses for lots of French fishing vessels in fact. I’m sure it will settle down.”

The post-Brexit trade agreement sees British fishermen get 25 per cent more fish in its own waters by 2025 than it did pre-Brexit.

This process has begun this year and will continue over the next four years, with regular re-negotiations on quotas occurring from 2025.

French politicians have threatened the UK with retaliatory measures, particularly around future financial services arrangements, if it does not award more licences to more of the country’s fishermen.

The UK and EU announced in March that it had drafted a regulatory co-operation agreement, known as a Memorandum of Understanding, on financial services, however it is yet to be signed or made official.

The agreement will outline how financial services regulators in the UK and EU will maintain open lines of communication when making decisions, but will stop short of giving City of London firms renewed access to EU markets.

Bloomberg reported last week that French officials are trying to stall the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding due to the country’s fishermen finding it difficult to get fishing permits for British waters.

It comes after France’s European affairs minister Clement Beaune two weeks ago threatened to block any potential move for Brussels to restore the UK’s financial services firms their pre-Brexit access to EU markets – already considered very unlikely.

She said there would be “retaliation measures” taken if the UK does not “deliver licenses [and] authorisation to access their waters for fishing”.

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