Brexit: Michel Barnier insists his ‘mission isn’t over’
The former EU chief negotiator stressed the British had regained “sovereignty” over their waters and claimed the Christmas Eve trade deal was “reasonable.” Speaking today as trade negotiations reached their conclusion last month, Mr Barnier added: “A third country can always sovereignly, freely, choose to move closer to the single market through different models that remain available.
“This is the British choice, the sovereign choice of the British, and according to what they consider to be in their interest.”
Mr Barnier also claimed the criticism from some fisheries organisations including the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation that Mr Johnson had sold out to the EU in the deal was “surprising”.
He added: “I don’t understand this criticism since the British have gained around 25 per cent more fishing opportunities and we have lost this 25 per cent.
“The British have regained sovereignty over their waters. In the reasonable agreement that we have found, the British have won over the current situation.”
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In response to Boris Johnson’s message of “respecting sovereignty” during trade deal negotiations, Mr Barnier said he never got “angry” about the UK PM’s message.
He added to The Times Weekend Magazine:: “I don’t think I ever got angry in negotiations, even if I don’t always need to be told ‘sovereignty, sovereignty’ because I understood from day one.
“I am able to do politics with emotion and I had a lot of emotion in Ireland, for example, in my encounters with people.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the new relationship he had negotiated with Brussels on fishing would bring big benefits to coastal communities.
During his visit to Scotland on Thursday, he said: “Be in no doubt that over the medium term, and much more over the long term, the changes are very beneficial.
“A big increase in North Sea cod, in North Sea haddock, in just the next few years, a 25% increase in overall quota in just the next few years.
“Then, moving to a world in which we really are able as a country to fish the entire stocks in the whole of Britain’s territorial waters.”
However, Mr Johnson made clear post-Brexit problems would be “inevitable” after Scottish Fishermen experienced significant difficulties exporting their goods to the EU earlier this month.
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Mr Johnson said he would be happy to meet with the fishing sector to “explain why I think we’ve done the right thing with Brexit”.
He added: “Of course, there are teething problems in lots of areas – that’s inevitable because there is a big change.
“We told people there was a big change coming and where people have had problems through no fault of their own, there is a £23 million fund to help them through it.”
When asked for a response to Mr Johnson’s comments, the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said the organisation’s position had not changed since chief executive Elspeth Macdonald wrote to Mr Johnson on January 15.
In her letter, she said the industry found itself “in the worst of both worlds” since the enactment of the Brexit agreement.
Ms Macdonald said: “Your deal leaves us with shares that not only fall very far short of zonal attachment, but in many cases fail to ‘bridge the gap’ compared to historic catches, and with no ability to leverage more fish from the EU, as they have full access to our waters.
“This, coupled with the chaos experienced since January 1 in getting fish to market means that many in our industry now fear for their future, rather than look forward to it with optimism and ambition.”
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