The Government has come under pressure from the fishing industry in recent weeks, as many feel aggrieved as a result of the Brexit deal. The ill-feeling was worsened when the EU banned the import of oysters, mussels, scallops, and cockles from the UK. Environment Secretary George Eustice wrote to the EU Commissioner for food safety Stella Kyriakides last week, arguing that the ban was “legally wrong” and “unjustified”. However, the Shellfish Association of Great Britain told PoliticsHome last week that they were told by Mr Eustice’s department that the EU were within their rights to enforce the ban.
As Brussels and London continue to grapple over fishing rights and trade policy, the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told the Brexit Republic podcast in January that “Brexit means Brexit” in an apparent jibe at the British Government.
He said: “I look at what happened in the UK and also in the EU because of Brexit – Brexit means Brexit – It cannot be and will not be business as usual.
“We worked a lot to reach this agreement on Brexit, it’s done and now we have to implement this treaty.
“It cannot be about any kind of renegotiations, we have to implement carefully, precisely and objectively to find a solution, if we can’t find a solution we respect this treaty.
“It cannot be about any cherry picking.”
Mr Barnier was also asked about the Northern Ireland protocol – a subject of tension on multiple occasions throughout trade talks.
As a no deal Brexit loomed, the UK Government introduced a plan which risked adapting the Northern Ireland protocol, a part of the withdrawal agreement, to ensure an open border remained on the island of Ireland.
The UK Government eventually backed down on its efforts to modify the protocol amid a legal threat from Brussels.
Northern Ireland has faced difficulties since January 1, with problems arising over supplies of items like fresh food and chilled meat to supermarkets under the new arrangements.
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European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic has accused the UK of failing to live up to “very clear obligations” under the Northern Ireland protocol.
Giving evidence to the Irish parliament, Mr Sefcovic said that controls at border posts are not being performed and EU officials are not being granted access to data on imports in line with the agreement.
However, the EU also threatened to temporarily break the protocol when it tried to block the movement of vaccines into Northern Ireland last month.
Brussels had clashed with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca after it said it would not deliver the full amount of jabs to the bloc.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen backed down eventually, admitting the EU’s actions were a mistake.