Brexit: ‘No pressure’ for Joe Biden to strike trade deal says expert
The Prime Minister announced on Christmas Eve a trade deal had been agreed between the UK and EU, with the draft text featuring more than 2,000 pages. But fishing industry leaders have voiced anger over the proposed trade agreement, accusing Mr Johnson of “caving in” at the last minute to secure a deal.
Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO), led the charge against the deal and said the fishing industry had been betrayed.
He said: “Lacking legal, moral, or political negotiating leverage on fish, the EU made the whole trade deal contingent on a UK surrender on fisheries.
“In the endgame, the prime minister made the call and caved in on fish, despite the rhetoric and assurances that he would not do what Ted Heath did in 1973.”
Mr Deas did concede the Government was successful in “having fought off EU’s attempts to tie the UK back into common fisheries policy-like arrangements”, but also said the agreement “will inevitably be seen by the fishing industry as a defeat”.
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Jane Sandell, UK Fisheries chief executive, concurred the pledges made to the fishing industry had not been met by Mr Johnson’s trade deal.
She said: “We’re pleased that the UK-EU deal will bring some kind of certainty to parts of our industry, although we’re still looking for the ‘prodigious amounts of fish’ we were promised, and for us it changes nothing.
“The government must now urgently turn its attention to striking a good deal with Norway and other third countries if we are to be able to fish in the distant waters from January 1.”
Jim Portus, chief executive of the South West Fish Producers Organisation, added to the Observer: “I thought we were going to get a wonderful victory, but many of the promises that were made have not been delivered.”
The full text of the trade agreement was released yesterday, and sees 25 percent of European fishing in British waters transferred back to the UK over the course of five and a half years.
After the “transition period”, the UK and EU will negotiate annually on the share of British fish stock European trawlers can catch.
Should the UK decide to completely withdraw European access to British waters after the “transition period”, Europe would then be able to impose tariffs on British fish exports.
An arbitration method has been included in the agreement to avoid lengthy disputes over fishing.
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Tory MPs have also raised concerns about the tight window to scrutinise the deal ahead of the end of the transition period on December 31.
Current plans see the House of Commons sitting at 9am, and the Lords at midday, in a bid to pass the deal within a single day.
David Davis, former Brexit secretary and Tory MP, told the Observer: “I am perfectly happy to give my in-principle agreement in one day if I reach that view but [only] in-principle agreement … because the European parliament will take days to look at this, having had longer to read it, and all the European parliaments will take longer.’
Peter Bone, MP for Wellingborough, added: “It is exactly like a budget. Most of us think this looks good, but let’s just have time to check back and establish that it is what it appears to be.”
While the motion is unlikely to fail given Labour’s commitment to vote for Mr Johnson’s deal, Tory MPs have signalled they could be willing to revolt.
Labour MPs may also revolt against Sir Keir Starmer and the party whip, with a source telling the Guardian: “We seem to be making a stand over a Conservative project. It is deeply uncomfortable for some MPs.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also complained about the deals fishing provisions, saying on Twitter it was “yet another example of Tory governments forcing Scotland in the wrong direction”.
The UK will leave the EU without a deal if the transition period lapses without the bill passing.
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