Sturgeon’s calls to rejoin EU are ‘disingenuous’ says Scottish Tory
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Nicola Sturgeon is waiting for the results of the Holyrood election to come in tomorrow, in the hope that she can secure a majority on her manifesto for an independent Scotland in the EU. However, many headlines have been occupied by protesting French fishermen near the Channel Islands this week. The French boats claimed Jersey had added new “technical measures” to the licences needed to fish in those waters, which had not been run past the EU first when the Brexit deal was agreed back in December.
Paris quickly backed the French fishermen — and one minister even threatened to cut off the island’s electricity — while the EU has made it clear it will be siding with the French.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he had unwavering support for Jersey, making the dispute the latest Brexit-related saga.
After two Royal Navy vessels and two French ships were sent in to patrol the area, peace talks temporarily diffused the situation, but the UK and France are yet to come to a solution to fix the issue long-term.
A spokesman for fishermen from Normandy, Hugo Lehuby, said: “We’re getting deeper into deadlock. Either this gets resolved or retaliatory measures are taken.”
The timing of this spat could prove worrisome to Scotland’s First Minister, Ms Sturgeon.
Ever since the EU referendum, she has pushed her campaign for Scottish independence by suggesting it would be a way for Remainers to rejoin the trading bloc.
She and the Scottish National Party, the SNP, claim Scotland was taken out of the EU “against its will” after a majority of the electorate voted to Remain.
In 2019, she met the French Minister for European Affairs Nathalia Loiseau “to discuss the new Scottish Government office in France, opportunities for trade and future relations with Europe post Brexit”.
Ms Sturgeon told France: “The Scottish Government wants to strengthen our partnership — not just on the basis of our historic ties but our modern connections: friendships; cultural links, business ties; shared appetite for innovation and most of all, our shared values.”
She also described their international bond as “one of the oldest in the world”, and their relationship would be key if an independent Scotland were to apply for EU membership.
Yet, this week’s fishing dispute and the French threat to blockade Jersey’s main port, St Helier, echoes a row between Scottish fishermen and the French just last month.
Leaders of Scotland’s fishing sector scorned French rivals when it was revealed they intended to stage a “scandalous” blockade at Boulogne-sur-Mer.
Just like the dispute by Jersey, the French fishermen said they were acting after licensing delays which would allow them to fish in British waters.
Chief executive of the Scottish Seafood Association Jimmy Buchan said: “It is a sad reflection that the French fishermen want again to impede on other people’s right to make a living.
“The UK Government has already conceded a lot in this negotiation to the point that EU exporters to the UK still don’t have to change anything as they were before 2021.
“Our industry has been on an expensive, sharp learning curve, which is continuing.
“There comes a point when the UK Government has to stand up for UK citizens.”
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The blockade lasted two days, while trawlermen insisted that more than 80 percent of boats had not been granted a licence.
The French fishermen said: “The fishermen of Hauts-de-France have shown extreme patience.
“But after being more than conciliatory, they are sounding the alarm bells to draw attention to an economic disaster in the industry.”
However, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs maintained that the UK had a “consistent, evidence-based approach to licensing EU vessels using information supplied by the European Commission” adding that this reaction was “unjustified”.
While this could have become sticky for Scottish and French relations, The Times pointed out: “Scottish fishermen’s anger towards the French is mingled with disdain for the governments at both Westminster and Holyrood.”
Away from this particular dispute, some Scottish fishermen started blaming post-Brexit bureaucracy for reducing their trade with French shops back in January.
This is a similar frustration the French fishermen have expressed in Jersey this week.
BBC Europe correspondent Jean Mackenzie explained: “Yes they [the fishermen] are angry, but they are also shaken by these unexpected restrictions and worried about their livelihoods.
“Some fishermen have only been given permission to fish for a handful of days a year.”
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