EU Member States issue joint warning to UK over reduced fishing rights | Brexit

Fourteen EU member states are preparing to issue a joint statement accusing the UK government of risking “significant economic and social damage” to their fishing communities, as wider relations appear close to breaking point.

In the statement, seen by the Guardian, France, Belgium, Ireland, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Cyprus, Portugal, Denmark, Italy, Lithuania, Sweden, Malta and Latvia will call on the UK to act ‘in the spirit and the letter’ of the Brexit deal reached last Christmas Eve.

The governments of the United Kingdom and Jersey, a dependency of the British crown, have infuriated the French government in recent weeks over the reduced number of licenses granted to owners of small boats fishing in coastal waters. In a sharp sign of solidarity, member states will make a thinly veiled threat about the likely impact on future EU-UK fisheries negotiations if the UK does not rethink its position.

This development comes at a feverish time in EU-UK relations, as Maroš Šefčovič, the EU Commissioner responsible for Brexit, prepares to present proposals to improve post-Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney warned on Monday that the EU was near the end of the road with the UK on the Northern Ireland Protocol, accusing David Frost, the Brexit Minister, of trying to undermine serious attempts to solve the problem.

Coveney said he spoke to Šefčovič on Sunday as the final touches were made to Wednesday’s announcements. They had agreed that there would come a time when the EU would say ‘enough is enough, we can no longer compromise,’ Coveney said.

The EU was dismayed by Frost’s insistence that any revision of the protocol must take into account the continuing role of the European Court of Justice in enforcing the bloc’s legal rules. acquired in Northern Ireland.

“The negotiating strategy that Lord Frost has adopted so far this year is actually to wait for the EU to come up with compromise proposals; bank these compromise proposals; say ‘they are not enough’ and ask for more, ‘said Coveney. “It’s the same pattern over and over again.”

In a speech in Lisbon on Tuesday, Frost will say that the EU will make a “historic error in judgment” if it does not meet the UK’s demands, according to the Daily Telegraph.

“For the EU to say now that the protocol – hastily drawn up in a time of great uncertainty – can never be improved, when it clearly poses such serious problems, would be a historic error in judgment,” the newspaper said. reported, he will say.

The Member States’ declaration on access to fisheries avoids repeating some of the extreme threats made by the French Minister for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, regarding possible reprisals, including the reduction of the energy supply to Jersey.

It is understood that the inclusion of more diplomatic language was the price set by some of the governments of member states to adhere to the declaration.

But the French government was keen to show that it had support from other EU fishing countries and that there could be support for retaliation through the trade deal, including tariffs on UK fish exports or in future fisheries negotiations.

Paris is furious that a third of French boats applying to fish in Jersey waters have been refused by the island government. Meanwhile, the British government has provided only 12 of the 47 French vessels with permits for its coastal waters.

The statement from the member states notes that the trade and cooperation agreement signed by Boris Johnson guarantees “the continuity of access for European vessels in a fair framework guaranteeing respect for sovereignty”, and calls on the United Kingdom and Jersey to come back to rethink their decisions.

They warn that failure to do so could jeopardize future EU-UK negotiations on mutual access to waters, with potential repercussions for the UK fishing industry.

“Such a response is necessary to approach in an orderly manner the next negotiations on fisheries with our British partner, whether on shared quotas, on technical measures, on the landing obligation or on maintaining fair fishing. , avoiding any unilateral interpretation of the trade and cooperation agreement, ”the statement said.

The UK and Jersey said they had acted “pragmatically” in issuing licenses to fishing vessels based on evidence of having previously operated in coastal waters. But EU member states accuse the governments of the UK and Jersey of putting unfair conditions in place.

“In particular, we note that the UK requires proof of geolocation for vessels less than 12 meters, although such proof is not provided for in the trade and cooperation agreement and fishermen are not required to have them under EU rules, “the statement said. “The majority of the fleets concerned are artisanal fishing fleets, dependent on narrow maritime zones without the possibility of moving their activity, and therefore the lack of resolution of these questions. [is] likely to cause significant economic and social damage to the communities that depend on it.

It is understood that the French Minister of the Sea, Annick Girardin, organized the declaration.

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