The discussion on the Northern Ireland protocol remains open. And to this has been added the fishing war unleashed in the last hours between the United Kingdom and France due to the fishing licenses granted or not granted by London. This Friday, the British Minister for Brexit, David Frost, and the Vice President of the European Commission Maros Sefcovic met in London as the culmination of a week of negotiations between the EU and the British Government in the English capital.
“The talks have been conducted in a constructive spirit,” said a British spokesman after the meeting: “But the distances between us remain substantial. As we have noted above, the EU proposals [para relajar los controles aduaneros a las mercancías que pasan de Gran Bretaña a la isla de Irlanda] They represent a positive step forward, but they do not expedite the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the extent necessary for a durable solution. They have also not yet committed to the necessary changes in other areas, such as subsidy policy, VAT and the governance of the Protocol, including the role of the EU Court of Justice. ”
The role of the Court of Justice, supervisor of European law, which is applied in this case in Northern Ireland as long as it is part of the single market to facilitate that there is no border with the Republic of Ireland, is non-negotiable for Brussels and, at the same time , unaffordable for Boris Johnson, who signed it in his own hand.
“Our position remains that substantial changes to the Protocol will be necessary if we are to find a sustainable solution that works in the best interest of Northern Ireland and supports the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement”, say Downing Street sources: “Lord Frost and Vice President Sefcovic, and his teams, will meet again in Brussels next week. ”
European Commission sources have explained that “Vice President Sefcovic recalled that the tailor-made proposals presented are unprecedented and far-reaching. They address the concerns raised by people and businesses in Northern Ireland. In addition, he asked the British Government to engage constructively with these proposals. ”
“It is essential to find common ground between the respective positions of the EU and the United Kingdom”, continues the Community spokesman: “We owe it to the people of Northern Ireland to find stable solutions as soon as possible. The Commission will spare no effort in this endeavor” .
Discussions on the Northern Ireland protocol will continue next week. El Sefcovic and Frost will meet in Brussels next Friday, November 5.
As if that were not enough, the meeting has gone through the fishing war unleashed between the United Kingdom and France.
According to community sources, “Vice President Sefcovic encouraged the UK to intensify talks with the European Commission and France to resolve the problem of pending fishing licenses. All French vessels entitled to a license should receive one.”
Downing Street, meanwhile, have explained: “Frost has also expressed to Vice President Sefcovic our concerns about the unjustified measures announced by France earlier this week to disrupt UK fishing and trade in general, threatening energy supply and blocking further cooperation between the UK and the EU, for example on the Horizon research program. Frost made it clear that if these actions are implemented as planned on November 2, they would put the European Union in breach of the Agreement. of Commerce and Cooperation (TCA, the agreement signed last Christmas Eve to regulate post-Brexit). Consequently, the Government is considering the possibility, in these circumstances, of initiating dispute resolution procedures within the framework of the TCA, and other practical responses, including the implementation of controls on EU fishing activity in UK territorial waters, within the e the terms of the ATT “.
In other words, the United Kingdom accuses the EU of skipping the post-Brexit agreement while the Brexit agreement is being skipped. And it threatens to resort to the dispute resolution system – arbitration – if France maintains its plans to take commercial measures against London if it does not grant fishing licenses to French boats that Paris understands correspond to it under the post-Brexit agreement.
Measures and countermeasures
The United Kingdom and France have unleashed the fishing war for the quotas that, according to Paris, London does not grant to French fishing boats in a new act of breach of the agreements on fishing rights.
Thus, in response, France announced on Wednesday that it had detained a British trawler who had been fishing off its coast without a license, and issued a warning to another.
In parallel, the British Government had warned in turn that it would retaliate if France introduces additional controls on ships and trucks arriving from the United Kingdom.
“The figure of 98% of the licenses granted by the United Kingdom to Europeans is false”, said this Thursday the French Minister of the Sea, Annick Girardin: “They are only 90.3%. Obviously, the 10 missing points are those that correspond to the French. It has been 9 months since the French fishermen can no longer work. It is a violation of what the British signed. Enough. ”
The ports affected by increased controls can be announced early next week, according to a French diplomatic official quoted by Politico, which ruled out that they would be applied to the Eurostar rail link between the two countries.
In a statement released Thursday evening by French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune, Paris also threatened to cut UK power supplies if Boris Johnson does not address French complaints about fishing licenses. Beaune announced “a second series of measures.”
The Boris Johnson Government replied: “The threats from France are disappointing and disproportionate, and are not what we would expect from a close ally and partner. The threats do not appear to be compatible with the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (the ATT signed between London and EU) and international law and, if carried out, will receive an appropriate and calibrated response. ”
British Brexit Minister David Frost, who met with Sefcovic on Friday, tweeted on Wednesday that it was “very disappointing that France felt the need to make threats.” Frost said there had been “no formal communication” from the French government on the matter and that they were seeking “urgent clarification.”