As part of retaliatory measures, the granting of new licences for boats looking to fish in the UK’s 6-12 mile nautical zone could be significantly hampered, according to a report in The Daily Telegraph. While the UK has already granted licences for distances beyond 12 miles, applications for those within that range are still being processed, in what would be a major blow to the EU and in particular French fishermen.
Downing Street has been keen to play down any retaliatory measures, but The Telegraph has reported other early proposals could include UK fishermen receiving funds from a £100million post-Brexit cash pot that would see their boats become more eco-friendly, or ensuring they have certain types of equipment.
The post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and EU states Britain cannot discriminate against the bloc’s fishermen, but as a condition around access to waters, new rules could be introduced requiring foreign boats to adhere to the same higher standards as UK vessels.
A Whitehall insider told The Telegraph: “There are things we could do to make their life difficult,” although a Downing Street source said they did not recognise the proposal.
Last week, Brussels told British fishermen they could be banned indefinitely from exporting live mussels, oysters, clams, cockles and scallops from large areas of UK waters.
The row centres around countries not meeting the EU’s standards who then have to purify their catch domestically before exporting, a process which adds significant costs and delays.
But the UK Government has hit back, arguing the move from the EU contradicts previous assurances that the temporary measure would end in April, with Environment Secretary George Eustice insisting there is nothing in the regulations that would see trade stopped.
Pierre Karleskind, a French MEP who chairs the EU Parliament’s fisheries committee, appeared to back the UK stance when he said: “The fact is the UK waters didn’t become dirty on December 31 at midnight, so this really doesn’t make any sense.”
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The EU is still struggling to accept the UK is now an independent sovereign nation, Lord David Frost has said.
Britain’s chief negotiator of the EU trade deal has told peers Brussels is still learning to adapt to the new relationship with the UK. He said relations had been “more than bumpy” and said a different approach from the EU was required.
He told the Lords European Union Committee: “We said last year during the negotiations that we wanted friendly cooperation between sovereign equals as our vision of the future and that’s still what we want.
“I don’t think that’s been quite the experience of the last few weeks if we’re honest about it.
“I think the EU is still adjusting somewhat, as we thought they might, to the existence of a genuinely independent actor in their neighbourhood and obviously there’s been a certain amount of disagreement over the vaccine issues which in many ways have created political difficulties on the EU side.”