EU will 'respect' Brexit decision says Sir John Redwood
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The Brexit trade deal was implemented on January 1, but has not resulted in an end to tensions over fishing rights. The EU’s restrictions on UK exports of shellfish have led to fury in the UK, and it was reported last month that the UK was considering retaliatory action. The Sunday Telegraph reported the Government was considering ending a series of post-Brexit continuity agreements it has with Brussels, which could restrict imports of European mineral water and seed potatoes.
A Government source said: “There is thought being given to where we can leverage in other areas.
“We have continuity arrangements… we can stop these which means they won’t be able to sell their produce here.”
Fishing had been a contentious issue during trade talks, and indeed in the decades preceding the 2016 referendum.
Brussels and London endured regular clashes over the fishing industry, including in 1996 when the European Court of Justice ruled that governments which break EU law should compensate individuals for any resulting damage.
The UK was furious with the verdict at the time as it risked opening the door for multiple compensation cases – potentially costing the country millions.
European Judges found that Britain had acted illegally when it refused to grant a licence to a group of Spanish fishing companies to fish in British waters because of their nationality.
The UK was ordered to pay compensation.
Then Fisheries Minister Tony Baldry fumed at the decision, saying: “Clearly it is crazy if, for example, a Spanish-owned, Spanish-crewed and Spanish-skippered trawler, fishing out of Spain and landing her catch in Spain, is able to fish against our national UK quota.
“This cannot continue. But because of the confusion over the rights of freedom of association under EU law, as demonstrated in this case, the European Court has found in favour of the quota-hoppers, so action has to be taken.
“We have decided to raise this at the IGC (Intergovernmental Conference). If treaty changes are needed, we will seek them. If new protocols are needed, we will seek them.
“But as far as we are concerned, our new charter of the seas is that UK fish should be for UK fishermen.”
The ruling said that the UK manifestly and gravely broke EU law when it made registration of fishing vessels subject to nationality.
Politico reported at the time that the “compensation cases could end up costing the UK government millions.”
Brexit continues to see fishermen frustrated, as fresh figures last week showed UK seafood exports to the EU have been almost completely wiped out amid a £700million hit.
Information published by the Office of National Statistics have revealed the fish and shellfish industries suffered a massive 83 percent drop in January.
James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food and Drink, believes further negotiations are needed with the EU to reduce “red tape” or risk sales never recovering to their previous levels.
He said: “There is no sugar-coating these statistics, they are grim.
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“We know Covid has reduced demand and there was stockpiling of products before the end of the year, but right at the heart of this trade collapse is Brexit and the creation of huge, new, non-tariff trade barriers with our biggest export market.
“This simply can’t be talked away as a Covid issue.
“The crash in UK trade has not been seen in sales to non-EU markets, despite it being a global pandemic.
“Also, we did not see a fall like this at any point during the first lockdown.”
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