Boris Johnson delivered Brexit as promised on January 31, clearing the path for the UK to finally officially leaving the European Union. He will now turn his attentions to securing a favourable trade deal with Brussels, but wants a full agreement struck within the transition period, which he has insisted will end in December 2020. But fishing is already fast emerging as a huge stumbling block even before talks between the UK and EU starting in March.
The Prime Minister is pushing for a Canada-style deal has insisted British fishing grounds are “first and foremost” for UK boats.
But the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has warned allowing European trawlers into British waters was “inextricably linked” to striking a trade agreement.
In the latest Express.co.uk poll, readers were asked: “Do you fear Boris Johnson will sell out British fishing in an EU trade deal?”
The poll, which ran from 11.30am until 9.30pm on Thursday, February 6, found 54.4 percent (3,791 readers) fear the Prime Minister will sacrifice UK fishing for a good post-Brexit agreement with Brussels.
But the results were tight, highlighting uncertainty over this key issue, with 43.2 percent (3,012 readers) believing he won’t take this step. The remaining 2.4 percent (172 readers) selected the “don’t know” option.
But, Express.co.uk readers have issued Mr Johnson with a huge warning that he will make his Conservative Party unelectable and hand power to Labour if he backs down from his current stance on UK fishing.
One reader said: “The sorry truth is that Boris was the only option for those who wanted Brexit, which is why the Tory Party did so well at the general election.
“But Boris – like all politicians – is very good at saying and promising one thing, only to forget what he has said and promised when it comes to the crunch.
“If he does stand strong against the EU and defends our fishing rights fully, he will ensure the Tories are in Government for 10 to 15 years at least.
“If he does not, he will unleash anger across the UK which could lead to the worst possible outcome at the next general election – a Labour Government.”
A second reader commented: “If Johnson sells out the fishermen for a second time to the EU, then come the next general election, the people will sell him out as they will not elect him or his party again.
“Johnson should think hard – one slip and he will not get a second chance.”
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Another reader wrote: “If Boris goes back on his word, the Conservatives will never be in power again.
“He would put the Labour lot in power, and that would be suicidal for our great country.”
One reader also warned Mr Johnson’s huge majority of 80 from December’s general election will evaporate, and that he would be faced with a “terrible backlash from Brexiteers all over the country”.
The Government has introduced legislation which it says ensures the UK will become an independent coastal state, quitting Europe’s Common Fisheries Policy and ending automatic access for EU vessels to fish in British waters.
But with future access and quotas set to be negotiated with the EU, there are concerns the fishing industry could lose out if it is used as a bargaining chip.
Speaking on Monday, the Prime Minister said: “There is no need for a free trade agreement to involve accepting EU rules on competition policies, subsidies, social protection, the environment or anything similar, any more than the EU should be obliged to accept UK rules.
“The UK will maintain the highest standards in these areas, better in many respects than those of the EU, without the compulsion of a treaty.”
He added that if a Canada-style agreement was not possible, he would be prepared to walk away without a full trade deal like Australia’s relationship with the EU.
Mr Johnson said that while he was ready to consider a deal with Brussels on fisheries, “it must reflect the fact that the UK will be an independent coastal state from the end of this year, controlling our own waters”.
He continued: “Under such an agreement there would be annual negotiations with the EU, using the latest scientific data, ensuring British fishing grounds are first and foremost for British boats.”
But Mr Barnier hit back: “It’s clear the agreement that we wish to have in the interests of UK fishermen and in the interests of European fishermen.
“I call that reciprocal access to our territorial waters and our markets.
“That agreement on fisheries will be inextricably linked to the trade agreement, as indeed will be… the agreement on the level playing field agreed with Boris Johnson.”
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