Holidays: EU Commission proposes ‘easing’ restrictions on travel
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At the beginning of February, the EU told British fishermen they faced being indefinitely banned from exporting live mussels, oysters, clams, cockles and scallops from UK waters because it is now a third country. Countries that don’t meet the EU’s standards have to purify their catch domestically before exporting. The process adds significant costs and delays and is particularly impacting fishermen in Wales and the south west of England.
In retaliation, the UK ended a series of post-Brexit continuity agreements it had with Brussels, which restricted imports of European mineral water and seed potatoes.
Planning for retaliatory moves reportedly came after the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety refused to meet Environment Secretary George Eustice to try and resolve the shellfish ban.
The EU’s intransigence did not come as a major surprise.
Even when the two sides were negotiating the withdrawal agreement, the bloc showed no willingness to compromise on the issue of fishing.
In 2017, the European Parliament’s fisheries committee said it would have been “unacceptable” to give the UK’s seafood producers free access to EU markets if trawlers from the continent “no longer had access” to British fishing grounds after Brexit.
The committee wanted the two issues to be treated as a “single block” during the talks, stating that one was “inseparable” from the other.
However, Ian Duncan, a former Scottish Conservative MEP, said this was “peculiar, unprecedented and counter-productive” as no other deal brokered by the EU included access to fishing grounds as a requirement.
He wrote to Alain Cadec, the French MEP who chaired the committee, warning that the recommendation endangered the chances of the two sides striking a deal and pointed out this was not the basis of deals reached with Norway and Iceland.
Mr Duncan said: “The committee’s demand that single market access for UK fish products should be dependent on free access to UK territorial waters for EU boats is nonsense.
“It is important to remember that the European Parliament will not negotiate Brexit and this kind of intervention is unhelpful.”
His letter to Mr Cadec acknowledged that Brexit meant a “significant adjustment” in EU fishing operations, with some vessels landing up to 60 percent of their catch in UK waters.
However, he added: “Not a single trade deal or access to single market arrangement brokered by the EU has included access to the fishing grounds of the participant nation.”
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The former Tory MEP noted that Norway and Iceland – “both proud fishing nations” – had guarded access to their waters.
The committee’s draft “key messages” for the European Parliament’s resolution warned that “closure of access to British waters for European vessels after Brexit would have serious socio-economic consequences for the EU fisheries sector”.
It emphasised that the issue of “free access to waters and ports is inseparable from the issue of free access of fisheries products to the European market”.
A European Parliament spokesman said: “The parliamentary committees have been asked to make an inventory of policy areas which will be impacted by Brexit negotiations.
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“Later this month, the political groups will draw up a political resolution with their views, which is to be voted on by the full House. Mr Duncan seems to refer to a preparatory discussion on this.”
Plans to take back control of the country’s fisheries the moment Britain left the EU had to be abandoned in the face of united EU opposition in 2018.
The backtrack was a significant blow to the ambitions of Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove.
Mr Gove put repatriating control of fisheries at the heart of his post-Brexit strategy.
Despite his calls, the EU made access to UK waters on existing terms throughout the transition period a red line of its own.
The Government had to eventually accept that the issue could not derail the deal on the transition, which was part of the withdrawal agreement.
Mr Gove was not the only Conservative politician to betray UK fishermen, though.
The first and most substantial betrayal came at the hands of former Prime Minister Edward Heath.
Mr Heath took Britain into the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973.
In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, former Foreign Secretary and SDP co-founder Lord David Owen recalled how Mr Heath was so “desperate” to join that he even effectively handed away British fishing grounds as a form of late entry fee.
Lord Owen said: “It was a scandal.
“Ted Heath traded in our waters.
“Over the years, people have pointed out that fishing is a small part of our economy.
“That doesn’t matter, there are things you cannot trade off.”
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