Brexit: George Eustice calls EU fishing demands ‘ludicrous’
The measures now put forward were previously branded as completely “unfair” by a Government minister. Crucial talks to secure a Brexit deal between the Uk and EU will resume later today. It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke directly yesterday as talks again broke down.
The two sides said “significant differences” remained on several issues after the EU was accused of making “ridiculous” demands on fishing access.
It is a point that has stuck throughout negotiations.
European countries currently enjoy lucrative access to British waters. France, for example, has a disproportionately large share, around a quarter of its total catch coming from Britain’s fish-rich waters.
Last week, the EU demanded ten years of unfettered access to the UK’s waters as the price of a deal.
Brexit: George Eustice branded France’s access to UK waters as ‘unfair’ in 2016
Fishing: Eustice is the Environment Secretary
The demands are believed to stem from France, as the country confirmed on Friday it would veto a deal if it was not satisfied with the outcome.
A senior Government source told The Daily Telegraph: “Their new offer was frankly laughable. They know we can’t possibly accept it. It’s ridiculous. If they think we will just cave in, they have made a massive miscalculation.”
European fishing access to UK waters is something Brexiteers and Remainers alike have agreed is unbalanced.
George Eustice, Environment Secretary, ahead of the 2016 referendum, slammed the “unfair” advantage and quota France had over the UK.
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Talking to The Guardian at the time, he said: “In the Channel, North Sea and far south-western waters we get a very unfair share of quota allocations.
“In the Celtic Sea, France gets nearly three times our allocation of Dover sole, roughly four times more cod and five times more haddock.
“That is because of the principle of relative stability under which allocations are set in stone and never changed.
“Whether the overall total allowable catch goes up or down, the French share remains disproportionately large.
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Boris Johnson: The EU called for ten years of unfettered access to UK waters
UK Government: Eustice branded the EU’s most recent demands as ‘ludicrous’
“We need to renegotiate that and would have opportunity to do so if we left the EU.”
Today, Mr Eustice attacked the EU’s latest fishing offer as “ludicrous”.
He told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge that the offer was “just not right” after Brussels proposed a “very modest increase” on its return of fish to the UK.
Meanwhile, France’s President, Emmanuel Macron, has since been blamed for “destabilising” the talks by making unreasonable demands on fishing and state aid.
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He is under pressure from other EU member states to give ground on a deal.
Bloc leaders appear to be disgruntled with Mr Macron’s hardline approach, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel having urged for “compromise” on both sides to get a deal over the line.
Currently, foreign companies own the rights to catch more than 130,000 tonnes of fish every year that are part of England’s fishing quota.
This equates to more than £160m worth of the English quote being in the hands of vessels owned by companies based in Iceland, Spain and the Netherlands, according to reports – some 55 percent of the quota’s annual value in 2019.
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As things stand, international law gives each state the rights and duties of stewardship over the marine resources that fall under their exclusive economic zone (EEZ) – a strip of sea that extends up to 200 nautical miles beyond that state’s territorial waters.
Under the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) all areas are treated as one, giving countries like Spain, France and the Netherlands access to the UK’s waters.
It has alarmed those countries who rely heavily on fishing, as after the 1 January 2021, they will only be entitled to catching fish in a small area outside their borders.
In becoming an independent coastal state after Brexit, the UK Government says it will have the right to decide “who fishes in our waters and on what terms”.
After much deliberation in Parliament – ten months – the UK’s Fisheries Bill was last month passed.
Now, the EU’s automatic access right to fish in UK waters will be removed.