Until Boris Johnson makes a priority of protecting the UK fishing industry and our sovereign waters, President Macron will continue to play political games and make threats against the UK. Sweeping problems under the carpet will not work, and the PM's failure to keep his promises to the UK fishing industry will not be forgotten, argues Jayne Adye, Director of Get Britain Out.

Time and again since his election as Leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister in 2019, Boris Johnson has claimed he is on the side of UK fishermen. He has promised to protect their interests in talks with the EU and 'level up' coastal communities which have been abandoned for so long. However, the reality has seen the UK fishing industry pushed further down the pecking order, ready to be sacrificed in order to get the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement across the line.

The lack of priority given to the industry is demonstrated only too well by the fact the Minister responsible for fisheries, Victoria Prentis MP, could not even be bothered to read the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement – including the section on fisheries – before she tried to convince people it was a good thing. Now, this same Minister is reportedly in talks alongside Lord Frost as they try to resolve the ongoing crisis. Perhaps I would be convinced the PM cared more about the issue if he had given the responsibility of this office to someone who actually seemed engaged on the topic – or at the very least represented a coastal community. I am grateful Lord Frost is there to make sure Brexiteers actually have a voice in the room, or who knows what we would come out having agreed to.

This week, even as President Macron temporarily delayed his threats to impose severe sanctions on the UK, Boris described the issue of fishing as "really vanishingly unimportant" when compared to his pet project of COP26. I have to disagree Prime Minister.

Write for us.

We're always on the lookout for talented writers and welcome submissions. Please send your opinion piece or pitch to: editor@commentcentral.co.uk

While protecting the sovereignty of our waters may not be as flashy as standing up and making big speeches to billionaires and other world leaders, the Conservative Party won the votes of this country with promises to 'Get Brexit Done', which included protecting our fishing industry. These are promises which must now be kept. Whilst French officials and fishermen continue to believe they deserve full access to our waters, then Brexit is far from done.

This lack of conviction to protect our naval sovereignty is not limited to mainland Britain. The PM has failed to give proper support to the UK Crown Dependency of Jersey for the duration of these threats. This lack of support has seen the Jersey local government forced into handing out nearly 50 temporary licences to French vessels – some of which have never fished in Jersey's waters before – simply to try and avoid having power lines cut or ports blockaded. A UK Crown Dependency should never be blackmailed by a foreign power without any meaningful support from the UK Government. The PM should be taking strong action, whether this be stationing Royal Navy vessels around the Jersey coast, or increasing raw material exports from the UK to Jersey to help fuel the power stations on the island.

As it stands, Lord Frost is maintaining a strong stance against French threats and talks are now delayed again until next week after a short 2-hour meeting on Thursday. However, it's about time the PM sent Frost into negotiations with more than just a cardboard shield to deflect demands. Lord Frost must be given real ammunition to hit back and shift the balance towards the UK. For example, is it not time we in the UK make the payment of the so-called 'Divorce Bill' conditional on the resolution of fishing talks and the end to French threats? In 2021 alone we are set to send £7 billion to the EU, with £5 billion to follow in 2022. Why should we send this money to a hostile foreign organisation which so obviously has no interest in being our true 'friend and partner'? This is our only option now – just as with the Northern Ireland Protocol – for the French and the EU to actually come to the table ready to negotiate properly and make the necessary changes to what had been agreed. They will not believe bluff and bluster; only real action will result in change.

Even with President Macron dropping his threats to the UK because of progress in talks this week, these same threats will not simply disappear. If for a moment Macron feels French interests are not being given top priority, he will resurrect threats of trade tariffs and cuts to energy supplies, regardless of what is agreed in any ongoing talks, especially as we get nearer to the date of the French Presidential elections next year. It is clear President Macron does not believe Boris Johnson cares enough about UK fishermen to take drastic action.

So, until Boris Johnson shows Emmanuel Macron he is serious about real support for the UK's fishing industry and UK fishermen, this merry-go-round of threats and crisis will continue for years to come.

13 votes

Sign-up for free to stay up to date with the latest political news, analysis and insight from the Comment Central team.

By entering your email address you are agreeing to Comment Central’s privacy policy