Fishing farce! UK grants EU firms access to UK waters despite Brussels’s shellfish ban

Brexit: Barrie Deas says fishing deal is ‘worst of all worlds’

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Reports emerged earlier this week the Government was planning to withhold the permits in retaliation to the escalating row on fishing. The EU has banned the import of UK shellfish, crippling the industry.

Asked in the Commons on Thursday morning if the UK would consider blocking fishing licences in retaliation, Michael Gove did not rule out blocking the approval of licences.

He told MPs: “It is important that we reserve our own rights when it comes to making sure that EU lives up to its side of the bargain.”

But officials at the UK Single Issuing Authority (SIA) began to issue licences to allow EU fisheries to operate within 12 miles of the British coastline on January 29.

This website understands that since the application process opened, more than 80 licences to fish in the 12 mile zone have already been granted.

The number includes 17 for fisheries from Belgium and 59 licences for French vessels.

Furious Brexiteers have called for the Government to take action to help improve the deal for coastal communities.

Ex-MEP and now editorial director of Unlocked Martin Daubney said the granting of licences “once again that the British Government have been completely and utterly toothless in its threats to the EU”.

He added: “Boris Johnson completely used British fisherman and coastal communities in Brexit, they were played like pawns and thrown under the bus.”

Former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib said the lack of action meant the EU sees the UK’s threats “as empty words”.

He said: “It’s just a weak Government response to the EU.

“Don’t threaten to withhold licences, withhold licences.

“Don’t just say you’re going to take action, actually take it. Get on with it and show some muscle.”

Tory MP John Redwood told Express.co.uk: “The whole country is desperate for the Government to stand up for our fishermen and women, and to try and get a less one-side agreement.”

“I’m quite sure we’ve got powers under the general agreement we signed and certainly powers now we’re an independent coastal state to regulate our fishery and control access to it.”

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A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesperson said: “Now that we have left the Common Fisheries Policy, all vessels, regardless of nationality, may only fish in UK waters if they have a valid licence and abide by UK rules.

“During the adjustment period there is reciprocal access to certain parts of the UK’s and EU’s 6-12 mile fishing zones for UK and EU vessels that can prove previous access.”

Tensions between the UK and EU escalated after it emerged Brussels was planning to block the export of British shellfish to the continent indefinitely.

Britain had been led to believe the ban on shipping the seafood to the continent was temporary.

Most shellfish caught in the UK are not ready for consumption and need to be purified first, a process that normally happens once the catch has been exported to the EU.

However, the bloc banned imports of the seafood which have not already gone through the process.

Britain had expected the ban to end on April 21 when new animal health legislation comes into force, but the EU has since notified the Government this will not be the case.

On Tuesday Lord Frost, who negotiated the EU trade deal on behalf of the UK, told a Parliament select committee the “experience of the last few weeks if we’re honest” had not been one of “friendly cooperation”.

He said: “I think it’s been more than bumpy, to be honest in the last six weeks.

“I think it’s been problematic. I hope we’ll get over this.

“It is going to require a different spirit probably from the EU but I’m sure we are going to see that and see some of this subside as we go forward.”

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