With Liz Truss taking over from Lord Frost as the lead negotiator with the EU, Jayne Adye, Director of Get Britain Out argues that if she is to really help deliver a true Brexit, then she must also resolve the crisis which plagues our relationship with the EU over fishing, as well as other outstanding issues.

With the surprise resignation of Lord Frost and the continuing crisis facing the Prime Minister over historic compliance with Covid-19 restrictions, it may be easy for the majority of the public – and the media – to become distracted from some of the crucial issues which remain unresolved when it comes to Brexit and our relationship with the European Union. Among these are threats which continue to undermine our national sovereignty, including French President Emmanuel Macron's attempts at trying to intimidate the way we live our everyday lives by threatening power cuts and legal action against the UK. French fishermen continue to try and implement blockades surrounding ports to hinder goods crossing the English Channel – which also, by the way, affect EU businesses exporting goods to the UK.

Many of these threats come as a result of claims the UK has not granted enough licences to French fishing vessels to operate in UK waters. This is despite the UK granting well over 1,700 licences to EU vessels in the last year, and rolling over these licences to next year. Through all of this, over 93 per cent of French applications have been granted. Many of the seven per cent not granted permission have no right to fish in UK waters under the terms of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement, but apparently this doesn't matter to the French.

Thankfully, a threat to block the Channel in the days before Christmas has been cancelled, because – supposedly – the French fishermen want a break for the Christmas holidays. Evidently the threat to their livelihoods isn't that extreme then! However, we can be sure this cancelled blockade will not end their demands to fish in UK waters. French politicians – including Alain Cadec, a French Senator since 2020 – has claimed their Government must keep up the fight with the UK into 2026 and unbelievably, perhaps beyond then. On top of this, Clement Beaune, France's Minister for European Affairs, has had the temerity to say that Paris will be asking the EU to begin legal action against the UK for these rejected licences.

Why on earth do the French think they can demand the right to fish in another country's waters? As I have said before, I think French wine grape growers would be up in arms if we simply invaded their vineyards to 'steal' their produce – and we feel exactly the same about French fishermen 'stealing' our fish in our waters.

Fishing

Liz Truss must take positive action with the EU now, as she gets to grips with her new responsibilities – let's hope her past history as a 'Remainer' will not re-emerge. She must stop the consistent appeasement of the French through concessions on fishing licences and the Prime Minister must start to concentrate on what is needed to finalise the post-Brexit issues – Boris must back her up.

There were many areas during the negotiations where Lord Frost succeeded mightily. However, fishing was unfortunately not one of them. If Truss does not reverse this pattern, the French – and the EU as a whole – will continue to think they can try and manipulate the UK for many years to come.

A key area where Truss can begin to assert her authority on behalf of the UK, is the rollover of thousands of existing fishing licences into 2022 which is due to happen on the 1st of January. Hundreds of these licences have the potential to contravene the 'Habitats Regulations and Marine Acts', passed by Parliament in 2017. This is because none of these licences granted to EU vessels ban the use of damaging fishing techniques – such as 'bottom trawling' which involves dragging heavy netting and other devices along the sea floor. Such techniques scar the seabed and destroy habitats for thousands of organisms changing the biodiversity of our waters. Brexit has created a key opportunity for the UK to take the lead in banning this type of technique, but as with so many areas of regulation, the Government is being too slow to act.

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Northern Ireland may be the area of the negotiations which gets the most attention so far. However, the UK fishing industry and the health of our waters cannot be ignored.

With fresh impetus in talks, Liz Truss must push this agenda forward – but no doubt it will be difficult, especially with the militant French fishermen and farmers in other areas in the background – but it is important these issues are sorted out once and for all.

The Northern Ireland Protocol

On multiple occasions the United Kingdom has clearly demonstrated the basic failings of the Northern Ireland Protocol, and how every condition has been met for the UK to trigger Article 16. Yet here we stand with no definitive action taken and no meaningful negotiations scheduled until after Christmas. While the Protocol remains in force, goods cannot move freely within our own country and businesses across the country are suffering as a result, with shipments queuing up for checks at border posts and huge volumes of paperwork required.

It appears the PM has even conceded to continue allowing EU Courts to control and rule over Northern Ireland. No matter how much EU Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic dug his heels in, this is supposed to be a 'red line' which should never have been crossed. The entire United Kingdom has left the EU and, as a sovereign nation, we do not intend to continue to be controlled by a foreign power.

Throughout this year it has been clear the Prime Minister has not been willing to back Lord Frost on the triggering of Article 16 because he is scared of a fight. However, this has to change and Liz Truss must force the PM to stick to his election promises and find some principles.

We have already seen the petty behaviour of the EU shine through, not least from the French, when implementing a new travel ban for UK visitors to France – an action which had no basis in science, especially as the Omicron variant is already freely circulating throughout France.

This behaviour will only continue – and get much worse if we do not reject the actions of those in the EU. They may feel emboldened by Lord Frost's resignation, but at the moment, the recent ridiculous behaviour of Maros Sefcovic – dangling important compromises which should have been put in place from the beginning – cannot be allowed to continue. Liz Truss must come in ready to play hardball and expose these EU political games.

Liz Truss has the opportunity to cement her place as the real successor to Boris Johnson as Prime Minister if she delivers on her new responsibilities. However, this means delivering on all of the Brexit promises made to the British public when we voted to get Britain out of the EU – and not just about Northern Ireland.

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