Lord Frost says negotiations will happen 'soon' with EU
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The Cabinet minister hit back after France warned it was willing to cut off Britain’s energy supply if it did not approve more fishing licences for small boats. He said the UK had been “extremely generous” in its implementation of the post-Brexit fisheries agreement and told Emmanuel Macron to be “proportionate” in his response.
French fury was sparked after the Government in London announced last month that it had approved just 12 of the 47 applications it had received from French small boats.
That anger was further stoked in a later announcement by the Jersey Government that of 170 licence applications it had received from French boats, 75 had been rejected.
France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune yesterday threatened retaliation, telling local radio yesterday: “The UK depends on our energy exports, they think they can live alone while also beating up on Europe and, given that it doesn’t work, they engage in aggressive one-upmanship.”
Responding last night Lord Frost told a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester that the EU had a habit of making excessive threats to the UK.
He said: “For all the frustrations of the last 18 months, I can’t think that we as a country have resorted to those sorts of threats.
“We’ve not made those sort of direct threats to our neighbours.
“The vaccine export ban earlier this year is another example of where the EU resorts to these sorts of threats quite quickly – and that’s not how we should behave.
“We don’t, and I don’t see why our neighbours feel they have to.”
In January Brussels threatened to block the export of vaccines to the UK unless Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave jabs earmarked for Britons to the EU.
It was the first major crush point between Brussels and London since the end of the EU transition period.
The threats were stepped up a notch when the bloc triggered Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol, effectively placing a hard border on the island of Ireland, in the jabs row.
It backed down just hours later after outrage both from Ireland and the UK.
Last night Lord Frost said France was being unfair in suggesting Britain was failing to issue fishing licences.
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He said: “We have granted 98 percent of the licence applications from EU boats to fish in our waters according to the different criteria in the Trade and Co-operation Agreement, so we do not accept that we are not abiding by that agreement.
“We have been extremely generous and the French, focusing in on a small category of boats and claiming we have behaved unreasonably, I think is not really a fair reflection of the efforts we have made.”
He said the French strop came despite the deal not being the one the UK wanted.
Britain has signed up to a five-year transition period that allows EU vessels that historically had access to UK waters to continue to do so.
Lord Frost had attempted to negotiate the immediate taking back control of waters.
He said Britain “would have liked a different sort of fisheries deal” but was striving to deliver on the agreed terms.
“We agreed this deal and we are implementing in good faith, so I think it is unreasonable to suggest we are not,” he continued.
“If there is a reaction from France, they will have to persuade others in the EU to go along with it, and it does need to be proportionate.”
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