Johnson and Barnier clash over EU/UK fishing rights

Brexit campaigners outside Parliament befor the general election

TORY PM Johnson clashed yesterday with the EU’s Barnier over the thorny issue of Europeans fishing in UK waters and vice-versa.

Speaking in Greenwich, Johnson said: ‘We are ready to consider an agreement on fisheries, but it must reflect the fact that the UK will be an independent coastal state. At the end of this year 2020, controlling our own waters and under such an agreement there will be annual negotiations with the EU using the latest scientific data, ensuring that British fishing grounds are first and foremost for British boats.’

Earlier at a press conference in Brussels, Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s chief negotiator with the UK over Brexit, warned the UK cannot expect ‘business as usual’ as it leaves the bloc.

Barnier told Johnson that the UK would ‘no longer be able to benefit from the rights and economic advantages’ of its time as a member state, as he unveiled the union’s draft negotiating stance for the coming talks.

He said: ‘Our free trade agreement must include an agreement on fisheries. This agreement should provide for continued, reciprocal access to markets and to waters with stable quota shares.’

Johnson reiterated his position that if a trade deal with the EU cannot be reached by December 31st 2020, that would be it, and Britain would proceed to make deals with countries around the world.

He said: ‘Here is the question: Are we going to insist the EU do everything that we do at the price of free trade? Are we? of course not.

‘There is no need for a free trade agreement to involve accepting EU rules on competition policies and subsidies, social protection, the environment, or anything similar, any more than the EU should be obliged to accept UK rules.’

Later in his speech he said: ‘We made a choice, we want a comprehensive free trade agreement similar to Canada’s but in the unlikely event that we do not succeed, then our trade will have to be based on our existing Withdrawal Agreement with the EU.’

Johnson sought to insist: ‘Let’s be clear the choice is not emphatically deal or no deal.

‘We have a deal, we have done it, it did turn out as I correctly prophesied, “oven ready”.

‘The question is whether we agree a trading relationship with the EU comparable to Canada’s or more like Australia’s.

‘And I have no doubt that in either case, the UK will prosper mightily.’

Meanwhile, Brexit day has meant that there is no access to British waters for EU fishermen.

French fishing boats now need a permit for Channel waters. The London Fisheries Convention, which gave French vessels access, came to an end last Friday. France’s government retaliated by branding the new rules ‘disrespectful’.