Brexit: Adil Ray grills George Eustice over resulting 'skirmishes'
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Adil Ray came to blows with Environment Secretary George Eustice during Friday’s instalment of Good Morning Britain. The minister appeared on the ITV news programme to give updates on the escalating dispute between the UK and France over fishing licences being awarded. France has threatened to block UK boats from birthing in French ports and has seized a UK trawler claiming it had no license to operate in French waters. Ray erupted at Eustice, telling him, “This was the sunny uplands you promised?”.
Speaking on Good Morning Britain, Eustice was interviewed on the ongoing fishing licence row which has gained traction in recent weeks.
Ray asked the Tory frontbencher: “Was this part of the Brexit strategy of taking back control, is this what you expected by that?”
Eustice replied: “What we expected by becoming an independent coastal state is that we would get a fairer share of the fish in our waters, so as part of our agreement the EU fishing fleets relinquished 25 per cent of their quota and that was fair.
He said this was what the Government has “expected”, which visibly infuriated Ray.
Ray erupted: “This is what you expected? These skirmishes in the middle of the sea? This was part of the plan, was it? This was the sunny uplands we were promised with this new vision of Brexit? This was exactly the plan?”
Responding to Ray’s grilling, Eustice explained: “Yes we granted access to fishing vessels that qualified and only 1,700 of them have been given a licence and obviously, we all expected that other EU countries would abide by the law and would abide by normal practices when it comes to these licences.”
He continued: “It’s well understood when you have a reference period – [which is] a number of years when you say if a vessel fishes in that water for say a four-year period that they quality – the remaining number of small vessels which don’t qualify just won’t fish in Jersey waters.”
A frustrated Ray chimed in: “Part of the Brexit deal is these tit-for-tat skirmished between fishermen and if they do continue with what they are doing right now and increase the number of checks on their borders, will they retaliate? What is the plan?”
Eustice replied: “The Brexit agreement was that we’d have a fairer share of the quota for our fishermen, which we got, and some access for EU vessels, which we’ve granted.
“Of course we absolutely expect other countries to abide by what we have agreed with them.”
He continued: “Two can play at that game but we don’t want to get into that.”
However, Ray told the minister it could be argued that Brexit and the Leave campaigns have gotten the UK “into this mess we are in now”.
The fishing licence dispute continued to worsen relations between France and the UK after French boats were required to reapply for fishing licences post-Brexit.
Licences would only be granted to boats that could prove they have historically operated in UK waters.
However, many vessels lacked the correct paperwork to prove they worked in the UK – this meant their applications were rejected.
The UK Government granted grace periods to allow France enough time to process applications.
But a significant portion of French boats were denied access to UK waters to fish, with just 12 out of 47 licences granted in September.
Jersey also rejected 75 out of 170 applications, these were mainly rejected due to lack of evidence.
President of the Jersey Fishermen’s Association, Don Thompson, spoke to Express.co.uk and believed France was being “chancers” with their applications and simply sent bogus applications to see if they could squeeze through.
Earlier this week, Eustice held a session in Parliament to address the issue and he revealed of the 1,673 licences issued, 736 have been for French vessels.
Good Morning Britain airs weekdays on ITV between 6am and 9am.
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