Respect our status! Boris stands up to Macron on Brexit fishing row in heated phone call

Jersey: Fisherman criticises France over electricity ‘threat’

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The Prime Minister and the French President spoke ahead of the G7 summit in Cornwall taking place this weekend. International cooperation to tackle coronavirus, climate change, and increasing access to education around the world were discussed on the call.

But the fallout from Brexit took centre stage in talks, with the two leaders locking horns on frictions over fishing and the Northern Ireland Protocol.

France has accused the UK of failing to honour its commitments under the Brexit trade deal to give access to its waters to French fishermen.

Britain has rejected the criticisms and said it has provided fishing licences to all those who submitted the necessary paperwork.

The fallout led to extraordinary scenes in Jersey last month when the Royal Navy had to be deployed after French fishermen threatened to block access to the channel island’s main port.

A French minister also threatened to cut off supply of electricity to Jersey if more fishing licences were not issued.

“On fishing, the Prime Minister and President agreed to work together to avoid any further escalation over the issue of fishing access,” a No10 spokeswoman said.

“The Prime Minister stressed the importance the UK places on having an agreement which respects our new status as an independent coastal state and works for the UK fishing industry.”

The row over access to the UK’s waters remains unresolved.

While the public rhetoric surrounding the dispute has cooled, tensions remain with French fisheries continuing to accuse the UK of blocking them for accessing British waters.

The two leaders also used the phone call to discuss continued frictions in trade with Northern Ireland.

Goods crossing the Irish Sea from Britain are subject to bureaucratic paperwork as a result of the Northern Ireland Protocol, implemented as part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement.

The mechanism was agreed to stop UK goods flowing into the EU’s single market and to avoid there being a border on the island of Ireland.

Ministers are calling for the customs checks to be scrapped, accusing them of having a negative impact on the integrity of the UK’s internal market.

“The Prime Minister stressed that both the UK and the EU have a responsibility to find solutions to address the issues with the Protocol” when speaking to Mr Macron, the No10 official said.

Britain has blamed Brussels for being more interested in protecting the single market than the Good Friday Agreement which helped bring about peace in Northern Ireland in 1998.

Lord Frost, who negotiated the Brexit agreement and is now in charge of overseeing its implementation, has accused the EU of failing to engage in talks to find solutions to the problems caused by the Protocol.

Brussels has said the withdrawal agreement must be implemented in full.

It says most customs checks could be removed if the UK agreed to sign up to EU rules.

The UK says it wants the two territories to accept their regulations are similar enough that trade can take place without customs checks.

Accusing the EU of failing to properly discuss the matter, Lord Frost said yesterday: “We have already sent a proposal to the EU – it’s just not one based on alignment, ie losing control over our own laws.

“We continue to be happy to talk whenever the EU is ready.”

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