Ministers are keen to use Brexit to allow gene editing, a form of genetic modification that is heavily restricted in the EU, to be used in the UK, despite a public consultation that found 87% of people who responded viewed gene-edited crops as a greater risk than traditional crop breeding methods.
The promises of exiting the EU as an independent coastal state brought with it the opportunity to rebalance quota shares to reflect the resource in UK waters and to provide for exclusive UK access to territorial waters within the 12-mile limit, allowing for a system of sustainable fisheries governance responsive and flexible to the natural fluctuations of a self-renewing resource. Under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, those goals were not delivered. The EU’s relationship with the UK on fishing rights – especially in relation to access and quota shares – is now in stark contrast with its relationship with Norway, another independent coastal state. Since the 2016 Referendum, the Federation with the support of others, especially Fishmongers Company, has campaigned assiduously to see these goals achieved and we will continue to do so. We will also work to ensure that the implementation of the Fisheries Act and the assembly of the nuts and bolts of the new management regime has fishing communities at its heart.
The UK fishing industry was shocked at the scale of the UK’s capitulation on fishing on Christmas Eve, 2020. This was a decision made at the highest reaches of Government. And it was made, despite the promises, commitments and assurances made during the Referendum Campaign and throughout the negotiations with the EU. Additional quota shares secured from the EU came nowhere close to what any self-respecting coastal state might expect as their legal right. Access to fish in UK waters – a key bargaining lever in annual fisheries negotiations – was ceded to the EU for 6 years (at least). We even failed to secure an exclusive 12 mile limit, something that most coastal states take for granted.
What we didn’t get and still haven’t received from Government is a clear statement of what has been gained and what has been lost as we left the EU.
In the wake of the TCA the Government made the claim that we were £148 million better off – although it was clear from the beginning that the incoming quota was very unevenly distributed and that there were areas where we had acute quota shortages. There seemed to be a lot of spin involved. Then as the year progressed things got worse:
• No international swaps until the second half of the year
• No reciprocal agreements with Norway or Faroes
• Problems in exporting fish to the EU (some like higher export costs and admin were foreseen as we were leaving the single market and customs union – some, like the EU ruling on bivalve molluscs, were not)
As we approach the next cycle of negotiations for a fisheries agreement for 2022, we considered it important to have a clear understanding of where we are: what has been achieved, what has been lost. For that reason, we asked Gary Taylor, an experienced fisheries negotiator, with long experience in the field, to undertake an analysis on our behalf. The brief was to make his best estimate of the gains and losses and the winners and losers in this whole process.
To be clear, we would much prefer the Government to publish its definitive cost benefit analysis in a transparent way for public scrutiny and debate. In the absence of that information, this is our best estimate.
The government has asked thousands of Germans residing in the UK to drive lorries to assist with the HGV shortage, even if they have never driven one before.
Germans based in the UK were sent a letter by the Department for Transport, signed by transport minister Baroness Vere, asking them to “consider returning” to the HGV driving sector.
The letter states: “Your valuable skills and experience have never been more needed than they are now.
“There are fantastic HGV driving opportunities in the logistics industry and conditions of employment have been improving across the sector. As well as attractive pay rates, we are seeing more options for flexible working, fixed hours, fixed days, full time and part time.”
German driving licences issued before 1999 include an entitlement to drive a small to medium-sized truck of up to 7.5 tonnes. It is understood that almost all Germans residing in the UK who hold such a licence have been sent the letter, almost none of whom have ever driven an HGV before.
Boris Johnson’s government has made a dramatic U-turn in an attempt to save Christmas – with a raft of extended emergency visas to help abate labour shortages that have led to empty shelves and petrol station queues.
New immigration measures will allow 300 fuel drivers to arrive immediately and stay until the end of March, while 100 army drivers will take to the roads from Monday, the government announced late on Friday.
About 4,700 further food haulage drivers will arrive from late October and leave by the end of February.
The rules mean that the government has relented to lobbying from the fuel and food industries and extended some temporary visa schemes beyond Christmas Eve and into the new year.
Asked whether labour shortages and the associated disruption they caused [queues for petrol, mass culls of pigs at farms, empty shelves at supermarkets] were an inevitable part of his Brexit policy, Johnson did not disagree.
He said: “When people voted for change in 2016 and when people voted for change in 2019, they voted for the end of a broken model of the UK economy that relied on low wages and low skill, and chronic low productivity. And we’re moving away from that.”
Pressure mounts as minister tells Tory conference UK ‘cannot wait for ever’ for EU to renegotiate arrangement
The leader of the Democratic Unionist party has given Boris Johnson until the end of October to solve the Northern Ireland protocol row just hours after the UK issued a veiled threat to the EU it would pull the plug on the Brexit arrangements.
At a private meeting with the prime minister in Manchester and later at a public event, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson warned that the party needed him to “take action within weeks” or he would force an election in Northern Ireland.
Donaldson, however, said he “was greatly encouraged” by what Johnson had told him on Monday morning and hoped significant progress could be made within three next three weeks.
The DUP leader was speaking shortly after the UK Brexit minister, David Frost, said Britain “cannot wait for ever” for the EU to respond to its demands to rewrite the Brexit arrangement.
Lord Frost said he had been waiting since July for a formal request for substantial changes to the protocol, which the UK has largely suspended over objections to checks on a range of goods, including sausages.
“We cannot wait for ever. Without an agreed solution soon, we will need to act, using the article 16 safeguard mechanism, to address the impact the protocol is having on Northern Ireland,” he said.
In a speech to the Conservative party conference declaring the “long bad dream of EU membership” over, Frost warned the EU that it must come back with “ambitious” proposals to renegotiate the protocol, which was drawn up to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.
Setting the scene for an imminent triggering of article 16, he said he was not confident the EU would meet his demands.
“From what I hear I worry that we will not get one [a response] which enables the significant change we need,” Frost said. “That may in the end be the only way to protect our country – our people, our trade, our territorial integrity, the peace process, and the benefits of this great UK, of which we are all part.”
The Ulster Unionist party and the Traditional Unionist Voice both support the protocol being scrapped altogether, saying triggering article 16 will only fix “a narrow trade issue” and not provide the solution to a broken UK.
The government is also coming under renewed pressure from the European Research Group of MPs to ditch the protocol completely.
The chair of the influential group of backbench Tory MPs, Mark Francois, said its members knew the protocol was flawed when they voted for the withdrawal agreement in January 2020 but went into with their “eyes wide open”. He told the Guardian that the group viewed the protocol as unfinished business at the time and had faith in Frost and Johnson’s ability to renegotiate the arrangements.
Lord Trimble, one of the architects of the 1998 Northern Ireland peace accord, said there was little point in waiting for the EU to renegotiate the protocol. “They will never change their position. We need to repudiate the entire arrangement.”
In his speech Frost blamed what he described as the EU’s “heavy-handed actions” for the unravelling of the protocol in Northern Ireland. “Cross-community political support for the protocol has collapsed,” he said.
His claims came days after business representatives in Northern Ireland said that triggering article 16 would have a chilling effect on trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and between Northern Ireland and the EU.
The EU’s ambassador to the UK, João Vale de Almeida, who was in the audience, said there was nothing strange or unexpected in Frost’s speech, promising a response to the UK’s demands within the coming weeks.
“We are looking forward to the solutions in Northern Ireland. We are ready to be flexible,” he said.
He told delegates that Johnson knew he was “taking a risk” when he agreed the protocol in the “difficult autumn” of 2019 but the risk was “a worthy one, in the cause of peace and protecting the Belfast/Good Friday agreement”.
But he added: “We worried right from the start that the protocol would not take the strain if not handled sensitively. As it has turned out, we were right.”
French government pushing EU to take stronger stance in dispute over access to Channel waters
The EU could hit Britain and Jersey’s energy supply over the UK’s failure to provide sufficient fishing licences to French fishers, France’s EU affairs minister has said.
Clément Beaune, who is a close ally of the French president, Emmanuel Macron, said action would be decided on within days and discussions were already in motion.
The European Parliament has voted overwhelmingly to send MEPs to a new joint parliamentary assembly with the UK parliament.
The new assembly will be comprised of 70 members – 35 from the continent and 35 from the UK.
It will oversee and scrutinise UK-EU trade relations, and has the power to make formal recommendations to the UK government and European Commission.
The new body, which will host parliamentary debates, could be a flashpoint for disputes over the EU-UK trade relationship – which has been far from straightforward.
Depending on the composition of the UK delegation, it is likely to contain staunch Brexiteers, as well as passionate European federalists from the continent.
“We are going to use our Brexit freedoms to do things differently .... we have seen off the European Super League and protected grassroots football. We are doing at least eight freeports.”
The Super League had nothing to do with the EU or Brexit – it was a private venture – while freeports were entirely possible as an EU member. In fact, the UK used to have seven.
“We have done 68 free trade deals.”
All but two are “rollovers” of deals that the UK already enjoyed as an EU member. The Japan deal added no significant extra, trade experts found – while the agreement with the EU itself is vastly inferior, causing a massive slump in exports.
The EU has urged the UK to drop the “political rhetoric” in the row over Brexit negotiations for Northern Ireland, revealing it will make what it described as “far-reaching proposals” to break the impasse next week.
The European Commission vice-president, Maroš Šefčovič, told a conference in Dublin he had a good relationship with the UK’s Brexit minister, David Frost, but that his threats to pull the plug on the Northern Ireland protocol were “not helpful”.
He confirmed the EU would finalise its response to UK demands that the protocol be substantially rewritten in the “middle of next week” and would then enter intense talks to try to find a solution. “I believe that the package of practical solutions we are putting on the table would be attractive … and I hope supported by majority of stakeholders in Northern Ireland.”
He also said he hoped it would meet the interests of the unionist parties who were vehemently opposed to the protocol.
What the EU was trying to deliver were “the best solutions, which will address the concern of the unionist community”, Šefčovič told the webinar at Ireland’s Institute of International and European Affairs. But he warned that the EU was not going to roll over to renegotiate the entire protocol just because the UK asked for this.
The protocol was the most difficult part of the withdrawal agreement to negotiate and involved “the best minds” on both sides over several years working on a solution to the problems Brexit caused in Northern Ireland. The EU would not negotiate the protocol “as the UK is requesting”, he said.
The commission has been working on counter-proposals to Lord Frost’s July command paper for the past month. Although Šefčovič declined to give details, they are expected to address the UK’s concerns over checks on food crossing the Irish Sea and barriers to medicine supplies between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
It is unlikely, however, to concede to unionist demands that the role of the European court of justice should disappear. “I would say [they are] very far-reaching proposals and I sincerely hope that it will be seen as such by our UK counterparts and they engage constructively in our discussion, because I think we have to kind of move [away] from the political rhetoric, from the threats,” Šefčovič said.
“You are trying to do your most and what you hear from the other side is ‘it’s not good enough’ … these threats are definitely not helping.”
Šefčovič said the bloc would use all options under the treaties to protect EU interests but that there would not be a hard border if the UK decided to ultimately disapply the protocol.
Earlier this week Frost said he would consider the EU’s proposals in good faith but he would only give the talks three weeks before deciding whether or not to trigger article 16, the mechanism to disapply parts of the protocol.
He warned the UK would act in a “robust” manner if the EU launched a retaliatory trade war in the event of talks collapsing during the article 16 process.
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP)’s boycott of meetings with the Irish government in protest at trading arrangements agreed in the Brexit deal is “unlawful”, a High Court judge has ruled.
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson’s announced last month that his party would ignore the crucial north-south meetings as part of their campaign against the Northern Ireland Protocol.
But on Monday a Belfast High Court judge ruled that the unionist party’s boycott was in breach of devolution legislation – ordering DUP ministers to “comply” with the law.
“The respondents’ decision to withdraw from the North South Ministerial Council was and is unlawful,” Mr Justice Scoffield said. “It frustrates, is contrary to and is in breach of legal duties contained in part five of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.”
The DUP responded by claiming the verdict was “proof” the protocol should be ditched – calling on Boris Johnson’s government to “stabilise” the situation in Northern Ireland by suspending parts of the deal with the EU.
The judge delivered the verdict after campaigner Sean Napier brought judicial review proceedings into the DUP move to boycott the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC).
Two meetings involved Dublin and Belfast ministers have already had to be cancelled after the DUP leader announced the party’s anti-protocol protest, with a further meeting scheduled for later this week.
Mr Justice Scoffield pointed out that the decision not to attend the north-south meetings came under the direction of the DUP leader – adding that the failure of the meetings to take place was “plainly a result of unlawful behaviour”.
Fourteen EU member states are preparing to issue a joint declaration accusing the British government of risking “significant economic and social damage” to their fishing communities, as wider relations appear close to breaking point.
In the statement, seen by the Guardian, France, Belgium, Ireland, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Cyprus, Portugal, Denmark, Italy, Lithuania, Sweden, Malta and Latvia will call for the UK to act “in the spirit and the letter” of the Brexit deal struck last Christmas Eve.
The governments of the UK and Jersey, a British crown dependency, have infuriated the French government in recent weeks over the reduced numbers of licences given out to small boat owners who fish in coastal waters. In a pointed sign of solidarity, the member states will make a thinly veiled threat about the likely impact on future EU-UK fisheries negotiations if the UK does not rethink its stance.
The development comes at a febrile time in the EU-UK relationship, as Maroš Šefčovič, the European Commissioner responsible for Brexit, prepares to table proposals on improving the post-Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland.
Ireland’s foreign minister, Simon Coveney, warned on Monday that the EU was close to the end of the road with the UK over the Northern Ireland protocol, accusing David Frost, the Brexit minister, of trying to undermine serious attempts to solve the problem.
Coveney said he had spoken to Šefčovič on Sunday as the final touches were being made to Wednesday’s announcements. They had agreed there would come a point when the EU would say “enough, we cannot compromise any more,” Coveney said.
The EU has been dismayed by Frost’s insistence that any revision of the protocol must deal with the continued role of the European court of justice in enforcing the bloc’s legal acquis in Northern Ireland.
“The negotiating strategy Lord Frost has adopted so far this year, effectively, is to wait for the EU to come forward with compromise proposals; to bank those compromise proposals; say ‘they’re not enough’ and ask for more,” said Coveney. “This is the same pattern over and over again.”
The member states’ declaration on fishing access avoids repeating some of the extreme threats made by France’s EU affairs minister, Clément Beaune, over potential retaliation, including reducing energy supply to Jersey.
It is understood that the inclusion of more diplomatic language was the price set by some of the member state governments for signing up to the statement.
But the French government was keen to illustrate that it has the support of other EU fishing nations and that there could be backing for reprisals through the trade agreement, including tariffs on UK fish exports or in future fishing talks.
Paris is furious that a third of French boats applying to fish in Jersey’s waters have been turned down by the island’s government. Meanwhile the UK government provided only 12 of 47 French vessels with permits for its coastal waters.
The member states’ statement notes that the trade and cooperation agreement signed by Boris Johnson guarantees “the continuity of access for European vessels within an equitable framework ensuring respect for the sovereignty”, and calls for the UK and Jersey to return to rethink their decisions.
They warn that a failure to do so could jeopardise future EU-UK negotiations over mutual access to waters with potential repercussions for the British fishing industry.
“Such a response is necessary in order to approach in an orderly manner the forthcoming negotiations on fisheries with our British partner, whether it is on shared quotas, on technical measures, on the landing obligation or regarding the preservation of a fisheries level playing field, avoiding any unilateral interpretation of the trade and cooperation agreement,” the statement says.
The UK and Jersey have said they have acted in a “pragmatic” manner in issuing fishing vessels with permits on the basis of evidence of having previously operated in the coastal waters. But the EU member states accuse the UK and Jersey governments of setting unfair conditions.
“In particular, we note that the United Kingdom requires evidence of geolocation for vessels under 12 metres, whereas such evidence is not provided for in the trade and cooperation agreement and fishermen are not required to have it under EU rules,” the statement says. “The majority of the fleets concerned are small-scale fishing fleets, dependent on narrow maritime zones with no possibility of moving their activity, and therefore the failure to resolve these matters [is] likely to cause significant economic and social damage to the communities that depend on them.”
No contradiction between ‘pursuing own prosperity' and ‘deep relationships’ with EU, Frost says
In his speech, David Frost has also said the UK’s influence on the EU “now comes through the power of example”.
The Brexit minister added that the UK has no interest in “coalition building” across the EU, but wanted EU members to prosper.
“Brexit will likely strengthen our interest in deep engagement with the traditionally more transatlanticist countries like Portugal, but also the countries in central and eastern Europe that bear the direct burden of the pressure from Russia,” Lord Frost said.
On the relationship with France, he said: “Despite the very visible current difficulties, we will always look to have a construct and productive relationship with France.”
“There is of course no contradiction between these deep relationships based on fundamental interests and pursuing our own prosperity in our own way.”