Blog: Brexit deadline: Boris Johnson has just HOURS to respond to huge EU legal threat – Daily Express

Sign up for

FREE

now and never miss the top politics stories again.

Invalid email

We will use your email address only for sending you newsletters. Please see our Privacy Notice for details of your data protection rights.

Last month, the Prime Minister introduced the controversial proposed legislation as negotiations on the future relationship between London and Brussels after Brexit turned increasingly nasty. But Mr Johnson triggered outrage among EU bureaucrats by pressing ahead with the Internal Market Bill, which could override key elements of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement with the EU and consequently, risks breaking international law. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on October 1 the EU would launch legal action to prevent the UK overriding key parts of the divorce treaty

She gave the Government until the end of this month, which is today, to respond to a “formal letter of notice” but at the time, did not say what action might follow if the UK does not provide a satisfactory response.

But under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement signed last year, the EU could potentially take Britain to the European Court of Justice – blowing a huge hole in hopes of a post-Brexit trade deal between the two sides.

In a press statement at the Commission headquarters in Brussels, Ms von der Leyen said: “This draft Bill is by its very nature a breach of the obligation of good faith laid down in the Withdrawal Agreement.

“The deadline lapsed yesterday, the problematic provisions have not been removed, therefore the commission has decided this morning to send a letter of formal notice to the UK Government.

brexit boris johnson european union

Brexit news: Boris Johnson has just hours to respond to a legal threat from the EU (Image: GETTY)

brexit ursula von der leyen

Brexit news: Ursula von der Leyen gave the UK until the end of today to respond to a ‘formal letter of notice’ (Image: GETTY)

“This is the first step in an infringement procedure. The letter invites the UK Government to send its observations within a month.”

In response, Downing Street said the Government would respond to the letter from the EU “in due course”.

A spokesman said: “We have clearly set out our reasons for introducing the measures related to the Northern Ireland protocol.

“We need to create a legal safety net to protect the integrity of the UK’s internal market, ensure ministers can always deliver on their obligations to Northern Ireland and protect the gains from the peace process.”

READ MORE: Fishing chief warns French will use ‘militant tactics and burn boat’

brexit boris johnson

Brexit news: The Prime Minister has stood firm on the Internal Market Bill (Image: GETTY)

Number 10 insists the legislation is needed to protect the Northern Ireland peace process if Britain is unable to secure a deal with the EU.

The Government is proposing “limited clarifications” to the law to ensure ministers can preserve the gains of the Good Friday Agreement in the event of a no deal outcome between the two sides.

Last month during an emergency meeting between the EU and UK, European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic told Cabinet Office minister Mr Gove the EU is rejecting the argument legislation is needed to protect the peace process in Northern Ireland.

In a statement following the “extraordinary meeting” of the joint committee between the two sides, he warned Brussels is “of the view that it does the opposite”.

DON’T MISS
Brexit fisheries row: EU’s climbdown ‘proves bloc will cave in talks’ [ANALYSIS]
Ready for liftoff! Brexit Britain to LEAD European space industry [COMMENT]
Don’t blame Britain for holding up Gibraltar deal, MP tells Spain [OPINION]

brexit european union

Brexit news: Maros Sefcovic said the EU was rejecting the argument legislation is needed to protect the peace process in Northern Ireland (Image: GETTY)

brexit michael gove

Brexit news: Michael Gove stood firm on the Internal Market Bill, despite a warning from Maros Sefcovic (Image: GETTY)

Mr Sefcovic said Britain had “seriously damaged trust” with the Bill that deviates from the Withdrawal Agreement signed by the Prime Minister.

He added in the statement “in no uncertain terms” that the “timely and full implementation” of the divorce deal is “a legal obligation”.

But following the meeting, a defiant Mr Gove said: “The UK Government is committed to the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement and the (Northern Ireland) protocol.

“Vice President Sefcovic also requested the UK withdraw its internal market legislation.

“I explained to him that we could not and would not do that and instead I stressed the vital importance of reaching agreement through the joint committee on these vital questions.”

brexit deadline

Brexit news: The transition period deadline ends on December 31 (Image: EXPRESS)

The Internal Market Bill is currently being scrutinised in detail by the House of Lords after the proposed legislation passed through the House of Commons earlier this month.

But several cross-party amendments have been tabled that could see powers enabling ministers to breach the Withdrawal Bill and break international law completely stripped out, which would likely lead to a number of defeats for the Government.

Mr Johnson is now set for a furious showdown with the Lords on November 9, with peers planning to make the unusual move of voting on amendments to the Bill during the committee stage.

The votes were set to take place at the end of November, by which time the UK had hoped a trade deal with the EU would have been sealed, but bringing them forward piles even more pressure onto the Prime Minister – as crunch talks between the UK and the bloc remain ongoing.

Blog: Brexit and Magalluf – Majorca Daily Bulletin

PROVIDING Magalluf is allowed to reopen next year, business owners, especially those in the hostelry sector, could be faced with a complicated problem, where will they get their seasonal workers from?

Seasonal Business in Travel (SBiT) has launched a petition calling for the UK and Europe to allow young people to work for short periods of time without visas.

The organisation, which had campaigned for a second referendum on Brexit and to keep free movement in any deal with the EU, says the jobs of 25,000 UK citizens working abroad in Europe are at risk without a visa exemption scheme in place.

It said 87% of those 25,000 seasonal working are aged between 18 and 34-years-old, and jobs include reps, hotel staff, nannies, drivers and logistics experts.

The first concern is what is going to happen to those Britons heading off to work the winter ski season, providing there is one.

The second one is going to be what will the rules and regulations be for the tens of thousands of young people who normally, or are planning, to spend the summer working in an overseas resort in bars, shops, hotels etc.

If visas and the like become a requirement, it may deter many from bothering and in resorts like Magalluf, where are the seasonal staff, which are mostly British, going to come from?

Blog: New Brexit threat to key sectors of all-island economy – RTE.ie

The EU and UK have grappled with the Irish border for three years.

How could Britain leave the single market and customs union without that necessitating customs and regulatory controls at the land border between north and south, with its 200 crossing points?

The solution is the Northern Ireland Protocol. It is by no means pretty, and it essentially displaces the pain from the land border to the Irish Sea.

Still, it facilitates the free circulation of Northern Irish goods across the border and into the 26 other EU countries, so the invisible land border remains exactly that. 

But a new complexity has arisen. Once again, key sectors of the all-island economy are under threat. This time potential solutions are being cold-shouldered because of sensitivities at the heart of the current free trade negotiations between London and Brussels.

So what is the problem?

There is no provision in the Protocol to continue the practice of northern components being added to goods produced in the south, and then exported around the globe under EU free trade agreements (FTAs).

It’s not that this was unforeseen. Northern Ireland business organisations, and Stormont officials, raised the issue with both the European Commission and the British government even as the ink on the Protocol was drying last October. 

Under Theresa May’s deal there was no issue, because the UK as a whole was staying in a customs union with the EU.

Under Boris Johnson’s deal, however, Northern Ireland would be out of the customs union, but simultaneously operating EU customs union rules and producing goods to EU single market standards. 

Michel Barnier (left) and Maroš Šefčovič are said to be sympathetic to allowing Northern Irish exporters benefit from EU trade deals

Did that mean Northern exporters could still benefit from existing and future EU trade deals around the world?

Business groups say London and Brussels said yes. One Stormont official present is more circumspect.

“It was never absolutely ruled out, but the door was never wide open either,” says the official. It’s understood the promise – if that is what it was – went cold in the early part of this year.

“There was a diminishing level of trust [in Brussels] that the UK was serious about its obligations under the Protocol,” says one business representative who attended numerous meetings on the issue. “The EU was then rowing back from its creative interpretation. Lines were laid down by the Commission.”

Those lines were hardening when the European Commission met Irish business organisations in the spring. According to one industry source present, the Commission said continued access for Northern Irish exporters to EU trade deals was “not up for discussion”.

In June, the Commission wrote to one Irish export sector: “For the purpose of EU FTAs, goods produced in the UK, including Northern Ireland, will not be considered as being of EU-27 origin as from the end of the transition period.”

According to that declaration, Northern Ireland will fall out of some 60 free trade agreements between the EU and trading blocs around the world on January 1. 

Northern goods will be considered as British, and not European, even though they will have been produced to EU standards. This is because Northern Ireland will remain part of the UK’s customs territory.

If Northern Ireland can’t continue to avail of EU FTAs, how big a problem might it be?It is a mixed picture. Some sectors will be very exposed, others less. It certainly has the potential to significantly disrupt all-island value chains.

With the deadline approaching, Dublin has been discreetly pushing the issue at the behest of Northern businesses. Senior figures have been “echoing” their concerns to both the European Commission and the British government.

“We have informally signalled it to the Commission and there have been some discussions,” says one senior source. 

In fact, it has crept onto the agenda of the EU-UK Joint Committee, the body tasked with implementing the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, including the Protocol. Both the EU’s representative on the Committee, Maroš Šefčovič, and Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, are said to be sympathetic.

Dublin is pushing this for a number of reasons. Northern traders are having to comply with EU standards, and there will be onerous checks and controls on goods coming in from Great Britain.

“It would show the North some of the benefits of the new status,” says the source. “Traders could get access to quotas in third country agreements that the rest of the UK wouldn’t.”

The Irish government is also keenly aware that the Northern Ireland Assembly will be voting on whether or not to continue the trade provisions of the Protocol in four years’ time.

However, if Northern Ireland can’t continue to avail of EU FTAs, how big a problem might it be?

It is a mixed picture. Some sectors will be very exposed, others less. It certainly has the potential to significantly disrupt all-island value chains.

The key determinant of how big a problem it will be is the “country of origin” principle. Under trade rules, a product can qualify for preferential access even if part of that product comes from somewhere else, ie; not the country that is negotiating to get tariff-free access to another market.

A majority of north-south cross-border trade is in intermediate inputs, ie; component parts or ingredients that are added to goods which are processed and sold on. Inputs account for over 60% of southern exports going north, and 70% of northern exports coming south. 

In 2017, 1,402 southern companies imported components or inputs from the North. Some of the components will end up in goods which stay on the island, some will end up in goods going back to the North, to Great Britain, or to the rest of the EU.

None of that will change.

Martina Lawless, a research professor with the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), was commissioned by the Northern Ireland Department for the Economy to explore the problem faced by those Northern inputs currently exported overseas from the south under EU trade deals.

One quarter of those north-south inputs go to Irish companies which typically avail of EU free trade agreements, mostly in the pharmaceuticals and chemicals sectors. 

By far the most exposed sector will be dairy, which accounts for 45% of those goods which cross the border to be added to products going overseas. 

“Any dairy product manufactured in NI can be exported under EU free trade agreements,” says Mike Johnstone, chairman of the Dairy Council of Northern Ireland.

“We have a third of our raw milk moved from the North to the Republic for further processing. A significant proportion goes on to third countries and is exported under EU FTAs.”

During the Brexit Withdrawal Agreements, dairy was highlighted as the exemplary all-island product for which Brexit meant disaster.

EU civil servants were schooled in the fabled activity of thousands of tankers bringing millions of litres of milk along narrow roads, collected on one side of the border, processed in another, turned into cheese, powdered milk or infant formula somewhere else on the island and then exported to the EU or around the globe.

This all-island model was forged over time. The North doesn’t have enough capacity to process all the milk it produces; large sophisticated co-ops in the south need Northern milk to both meet export demand and keep running efficiently.

In all, up to 20% of the milk pool in the Republic comes from Northern Ireland. It gets fragmented into regular milk, butter, cheese, powdered milk, sports drinks, all processed along the border and further afield in Ireland.  Northern milk’s overall footprint is bigger than it appears.

Dairy was highlighted as the exemplary all-island product for which Brexit meant disaster

But if Northern Ireland is out of EU free trade deals, what happens to that model? It is worth looking at global trade rules in detail to explain the issue further.

Free trade agreements mean goods from one country get preferential access to another. They attract a smaller (or zero) tariff and there are agreed quotas on how much can be shipped before a higher tariff kicks in.

Global trade rules are devilishly complex. Rules differ from product to product, and FTAs run to thousands of pages because individual goods are categorised differently, depending on what they are, and how much of the good originates in the partner country.

“These criteria can be quite complex,” Martina Lawless wrote in her paper ‘Northern Ireland inputs to Republic of Ireland EU FTA exports’, which was published in September. 

“In the event of uncertainty as to whether Northern Ireland inputs are considered as equivalent in origin to those sourced within the EU, this could lead to EU purchasers that trade via EU FTAs reorienting their supply chains away from Northern Ireland producers.”

Some of the older EU FTAs, such as those with the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and Nigeria, do not have rules of origin strictures, so it doesn’t matter if some of the milk originates in Northern Ireland, according to an industry source.

In other words, a disruption to all-island supply chains. A southern company could simply look for a supplier elsewhere in the EU if there are sudden complications with a Northern component.

Under the rubric of “rules of origin”, trade partners can accept each other’s goods even if a significant part of those goods originates in another part of the world, or a country with which one partner does not have a free trade agreement.

The more that the extra component is transformed into, say, a more “Irish” product the more that component is tolerated, and the lower the tariff which applies.

Some of the older EU FTAs, such as those with the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and Nigeria, do not have rules of origin strictures, so it doesn’t matter if some of the milk originates in Northern Ireland, according to an industry source.

Under trading arrangements with the United States and China, Northern milk will still be accepted.

However, the big concern is the more “modern” FTAs the EU has negotiated with Canada, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore and Mercosur, and future “modern” FTAs. They will require all milk to be designated EU milk in order to benefit from preferential market access.

“The issue is to take advantage of these new FTAs,” says the industry source, “Canada, Japan, South Korea, where there is a rules of origin stipulation. This is where we’re supposed to be growing our market diversification. This is going to be problematic.”

The most exposed areas will be along the border, where co-ops have a heavier reliance on Northern milk.  Glanbia, Lakeland Dairies and Aurivo Dairy Products are said by those familiar with the situation to be among the more affected companies.

Another sector with real concerns is Irish whiskey. The iconic brand is classically all-island, and is protected by the EU under what is known as a Geographical Indication (GI). 

“The Irish whiskey industry is the oldest in the world,” says William Lavelle, head of the Irish Whiskey Association (IWA).  “Some of our all-island supply chains go back to the 1900s.”

Irish whiskey is an iconic all-island brand

Some 95% of Irish whiskey is blended, and last year 26% of all whiskeys sold relied on ingredients from both sides of the border.

Once the European Commission made it clear that Northern Ireland goods could not benefit from existing free trade agreements, the IWA sought assurances that they could still benefit from those future agreements deemed so important to the dairy sector. 

The Australian market is a particular concern. It is the 10th largest market for Irish whiskey, and absent an EU-Australia free trade agreement the tariff on whiskey would be 5%.

However, in June the Commission made it clear that, aside from a small marginal percentage, if there were any significant Northern ingredients added to Irish whiskey then the entire bottle would face the 5% tariff.

Even if all the whiskey was blended in the south, if it was bottled in the North then that would disqualify it from tariff-free access.

Why has the EU taken such a hard line on “rules of origin”, to the detriment of Northern Ireland producers?

Multiple sources believe it relates to the tensions which go to the heart of the current EU-UK free trade negotiations.

Barnier’s position on rules of origin reflects the EU’s gravest concern: that having left the EU, the UK will now disproportionately profit from access to the single market if there is a too permissive attitude to where it sources its manufacturing parts.

When the negotiations began, the UK sought a broad agreement whereby both sides would recognise each other’s inputs as qualifying for zero tariffs. In other words, the UK could use EU components and ingredients when manufacturing a product that could then be sold on, tariff free, to the EU, and vice versa.

The EU adopted a similar approach, as it is a standard way of handling “rules of origin”.  It would mean that bilateral supply chains can continue.

However, the UK wanted a wider agreement whereby both sides would accept products where components have come, not from each other, but from trade partners around the world with which both the EU and UK have a free trade agreement.

This interchangeable approach is known in the jargon as “diagonal cumulation” (we’ll call it cumulation for simplicity’s sake).

However, the EU has resisted automatic cumulation.

Under current trading arrangements, the EU expects that at least 55% of the value of a car is created in a partner country for that car to qualify for preferential access. 

The average car assembled in the UK relies on 44% of its components coming from outside, meaning that the proportion of the car having its value added in the UK is only between 20% and 25%.

In the negotiations, London demanded that “cumulation” be applied so that the EU would accept component parts from Japan and Turkey as “British”, since the EU itself had free trade deals with both countries.

In September, the UK’s chief negotiator David Frost wrote to the car industry to say the EU had declined this.

“[The EU chief negotiator Michel] Barnier said no because the EU thinks the UK is just trying to remain part of supply chains, trying to get [EU] customs union benefits without being in the customs union and it will lead to a UK offshore manufacturing hub,” says Sam Lowe, a trade expert with the Centre for European Reform (CER).  “The EU has been quite firm on this.”

The average car assembled in the UK relies on 44% of its components coming from outside

After one fractious negotiating round in June, Mr Barnier said: “Do we really want to take a risk with rules of origin that would allow the UK to become a manufacturing hub for the EU, by allowing it to assemble materials and goods sourced all over the world, and export them to the single market as British goods, tariff-and-quota-free?”

In other words, Barnier’s position on rules of origin reflects the EU’s gravest concern: that having left the EU, the UK will now disproportionately profit from access to the single market if there is a too permissive attitude to where it sources its manufacturing parts.

Irish industry insiders, closely involved in the issue, fully believe that this is exactly what is driving the EU’s reluctance to grant Northern Ireland access to EU FTAs.

If flexibility was shown to Northern components in forming part of EU trade deals, is the argument, why could the EU not extend that flexibility to components made in the rest of the UK?

“They’re afraid that by having a discussion on protecting inputs from NI it is giving the UK a talking point,” says one source. “They’re giving a chink of light to UK negotiators and they would drive straight through that chink of light. It would get cumulation back on the agenda.” 

Privately, the European Commission has told the Irish government that it is sympathetic to the idea. Senior figures agree with industry sources that the broader issue of rules of origin is simply too sensitive for either side to start burning negotiating currency on how rules of origin might affect Northern Ireland, which in global terms is a tiny market.

There is also the practical issue of how it would be done. 

The status quo on the all-island economy is unlikely to be maintained unless both the EU and UK formally agree that Northern Ireland inputs can continue to be part of existing and future EU trade deals.

“It’s possible the EU could just write to all its trade agreement partners and ask, will you continue to accept Northern Ireland inputs as EU inputs for the foreseeable future,” says Sam Lowe of the CER.

Indeed, when the UK entered the Brexit transition period running from the end of January until December 31, it continued to be regarded as participating in all EU free trade agreements because the European Commission wrote to its trade partners specifically asking if they would accept that.

If the Commission starts writing to its trade partners again, the risk is that those partners could start to look for something in return.

“The idea of going to every third country partner and asking them to reopen the agreement to insert Northern Ireland in is quite a challenge,” says one senior source. “In certain cases, if you asked them to reopen the agreement they might ask for other stuff.”

Would it make any difference when the UK negotiates its own FTAs?

So far the UK has signed one major free trade deal - with Japan - but it has rolled over 47 of the 77 trade agreements that the EU has in place and is expected to roll over more (although not all) by the end of the year.

As part of that process, the UK is saying it will allow EU inputs to be added to British products, and that has largely been accepted by those trade partners with whom the roll-overs have been agreed.

However, the status quo on the all-island economy is unlikely to be maintained unless both the EU and UK formally agree that Northern Ireland inputs can continue to be part of existing and future EU trade deals.

Again, if the EU resists wholesale acceptance of cumulation for UK imports into the single market, that would mean that if the UK were to agree to a joint approach to the island of Ireland issue, then London would be accepting something for Northern Ireland that other parts of the UK won’t benefit from.

It should not be forgotten that Boris Johnson sold the revised Protocol on the basis that Northern Ireland would be able to participate in the UK’s new trade deals with third countries.

“We’re banging the drum about how the UK can benefit from these fantastic new free trade agreements like Japan,” says a senior UK source.

“I’m sure NI business would love to get the best of both worlds, but if the [European] Commission says you can’t have your foot in both camps, the British view would be that Northern Ireland comes with us on our buccaneering ride through free trade agreements rather than being left in the EU orbit.”

On 5 October, the deputy leader of the Alliance Party Stephen Parry MP asked in the House of Commons if Northern Ireland could continue to benefit from EU trade agreements.

The Minister for International Trade Ranil Jayawardena replied: “Northern Ireland is and remains British, so will be part of the United Kingdom’s customs territory… It will be HM Government – not the EU – that will negotiate and deliver trade deals on behalf of the United Kingdom as a whole.”

It is politically extremely delicate. The Irish government believes the UK itself is sympathetic but in the current climate it is not an issue which can be shouted from the rooftops.

Dublin believes that if there is a successful FTA, then once the Protocol beds down and the heat is taken out of the issue, a joint EU-UK agreement that can protect those all-island supply chains might be possible.

It’s a reflection of how Brexit continues to pull at the all-island economy, and how the diverging global instincts of the EU and UK can polarise opinion over something as abstract as trade deals and rules of origin.

The Irish whiskey industry says some distillers are already reconsidering their all-island approach to sourcing ingredients. 

“Time is running out for us,” says William Lavelle, of the Irish Whiskey Association.

“Unless things change, there will be Irish whiskeys that are predominantly produced in the Republic, blended in the Republic, exported by Republic-based companies, but they may contain one component from the North. So that could mean a tariff.”

He adds: “We survived partition, we survived going into the EU, now Brexit is going to mean us severing the industry in two, and having a two tier system of exports.”

Blog: Fishing chief warns French will use ‘militant tactics and burn boats’ in Brexit blockade – Daily Express

French President Emmanuel Macron is sticking to his guns as he fights hard for French boats to get as much as they can in any post-Brexit trade deal between Brussels and London. Trawlers in France will have the most to lose among EU fishermen as the bloc’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) entitles them to hoover up vast amounts of fish in the UK’s bountiful waters, including 84 percent of the cod in the Channel.

Don Thompson, president of the Jersey Fishermen’s Association, has warned the French will not give up access without a fight and predicts they will stage a hugely disruptive blockade of their ports on Christmas week.

He said given the sheer scale of the benefits currently enjoyed by the French, industry bosses are bound to be furious come January 1, after the Brexit transition period ends, whether there is a deal or not.

The fishing veteran who has dealt with French fishermen for the past 20 years says he has no doubt they will “react aggressively” to the changes.

Mr Thompson told Express.co.uk he has gotten wind of a secret plot being drawn up by the French to blockade ports on December 20.

He said: “We suspect the blockade will carry on for quite some time. That is just French militant disruptive tactics to pressurise their own government into taking action.

“We know that whatever the outcome of Brexit there will be blockades that will impact on our fishermen because many of them land directly into France.

“I spoke to a number of our fishermen yesterday who land directly in France and they have vowed to go to France to try to land their catch on December 20.

“The demands of French fishermen and President Macron for what they want out of Brexit just cannot be met. They have the lion’s share.

READ MORE: Brexit news: row over fish still threatens to derail trade talks

“There is an absolute certainty that the French are going to have to deal with a very different playing field in terms of fisheries after December 31.”

Mr Thompson said anyone wondering what lengths French fishermen would go to in a bid to make their fury known should look back to the 2015 protests by French farmers who attacked British lorries filled with produce.

The farmers tore out £200,000 worth of fish and set fire to it in protest over cheap imports which they claimed were driving down the prices of their own products.

DON’T MISS
Brexit LIVE: Frost rushes to Brussels – France sends fishing threat [BLOG]
Brexit breakthrough: Urgent talks move to Brussels as UK stands firm [ANALYSIS]
Brexit talks must focus on ‘major sticking point’ rather than fishing [INSIGHT]

Mr Thompson warned we could see a repeat of the aggression shown by the French once again.

But he said Britain should and must not be intimidated by such tactics, as the UK holds more power than France when it comes to fishing.

He said: “The French are capable of some fairly aggressive tactics, burning boats or anything is a possibility.

“The French are quite militant. But the state with the resources will always win in the end.

“We should never capitulate to intimidation and aggression but we’re going to have to face that when it comes in late December and beyond.

“The situation will change post-Brexit and French fishermen are just not going to be happy with it won’t be happy with it but they are just going to have to get used to it in time.”

Fishing rights remains one of the main sticking points in negotiations led by chief negotiators David Frost and Michel Barnier.

While the EU wants a long-term deal on fisheries while the UK wants a fresh round of negotiations to take place annually.

Fishing accounts for only a tiny percentage of the UK’s GDP but it has the potential to stymie a free trade deal with the bloc due to how central the issue is to the Brexit cause.

Blog: Brexit fishing row: Boris warned bitter EU standoff should have been avoided TWO YEARS ago – Daily Express

Negotiations on the future relationship from 2021 onwards had looked to be on the verge of collapse just two weeks ago when the Prime Minister threatened to pull the plug on trade deal talks with just weeks to go before the transition period deadline on December 31. But the UK and EU have resumed talks as both sides desperately try to thrash out the finer details on a number of areas that have proved to be major sticking points in negotiations so far. The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier met UK counterpart Lord Frost in London earlier this week, with talks swiftly moving to Brussels on Thursday as hopes rise a trade deal can be agreed in time.

But both teams remain a significant distance apart on several red lines, including fisheries, which has opened up widening cracks in negotiations.

Britain wants fishing quotas to be renegotiated in an annual basis, but the EU has argued this would make it impossible for the industry to make investment decisions.

Mr Johnson has vowed to protect UK fishermen in any trade deal with the EU, often promising: “We will take back control of our waters.”

But Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat MP for Shetland and Orkney, has said Mr Johnson and his predecessor Theresa May – who signed her withdrawal agreement with the EU in November 2018 – are firmly to blame for the current standoff over fisheries.

He told Express.co.uk: “The fishing industry has been promised a lot from Brexit and the people who were the most enthusiastic and campaigning for Brexit, are now the ones who are responsible for delivering on the promises that they made.

“It’s now down to a question of simple political will as to whether or not they deliver on the promises that they made.

“This current impasse between the UK and EU was completely foreseeable and completely unnecessary.

“If first Theresa May and then Boris Johnson had included fishing in the Withdrawal Agreement, rather than leaving it to be dealt as part of the Political Declaration, then we wouldn’t find ourselves in this difficult situation.

READ MORE: EU sues UK – outrageous letter demands UK plays by EU rules

“That was what was promised in the first place.”

Mr Carmichael believes when Mrs May signed her withdrawal agreement with the EU, she and then Brexit Secretary David Davis made a “strategic error of judgement” when they underestimated the strength of feeling in the UK fishing industry.

He claimed at that time, “they would almost have tried to sell-out the fishing industry at a later date” but then tried desperately to rescue the situation.

The Liberal Democrat MP said: “Reading between the lines, I think David Davis and Theresa May between them made a strategic error of judgement there because they didn’t understand the strength of feeling there is in the fishing industry.

DON’T MISS
Brexit: French minister warns UK ‘we won’t budge’ [INTERVIEW]
Exhausted Barnier admits deal no closer after 7days of intense talks [COMMENT]
Iain Duncan Smith shames EU for breaking OWN rules amid Brexit row [VIDEO]

“At that point, they would almost have tried to sell-out the fishing industry at a later date but once they realised the strength of feeling that there was, then they found themselves trying to claw it back at a later stage.

“It was up to them – they made the promises and having made those promises, they should have delivered on that.”

“They have made a rod for their own back there.”

Mr Carmichael also warned Mr Johnson any betrayal of the UK fishing industry in the EU trade deal will have “pretty severe” consequences for his Conservative Party.

He added: “The Conservatives didn’t have the political will to hold out for fisheries in the Withdrawal Agreement so at that point you had to wonder if they would have the political will to deal with it in the Political Declaration.

“Given the high importance of fishing to my community and given the importance the industry attaches to the promises that they were made, I hope they do have the political will to hold out.

“The political consequences for any party that betrays the fishing industry now will be pretty severe.”

Blog: Ready for liftoff! Brexit Britain to LEAD European space industry – huge mission announced – Express

Sign up for

FREE

now and never miss the top politics stories again.

Invalid email

We will use your email address only for sending you newsletters. Please see our Privacy Notice for details of your data protection rights.

Andrew Kuh, the Head of International Spaceflight Policy and Arfan Chaudhry, Head of International Policy, told Express.co.uk the UK Space Agency is now entering an exciting phase in its future. The last satellite to launch from the UK was in 1971 but following the announcement of the three new space centres across the UK, the agency now believes it can become a global leader in the field. Despite political and economic uncertainty surrounding the UK due to the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit, both Mr Chaudhry and Mr Kuh claimed the industry was ready to take up a vital role in restarting the UK economy.

“We are in pole position in Europe to be the first country delivering launches in Europe itself in the next few years.

“So I think that’s a really exciting prospect.

“For the space sector within the UK, it’s incredibly exciting and there are a whole load of new avenues for us.

“But I think for the UK more broadly, it’s going to create benefits in terms of jobs, innovation, educational programs that we attach to this.”

Brexit news: UK space tipped for success

Brexit news: UK space tipped for success (Image: GETTY/PA)

The UK could soon be launching from our own shores

The UK could soon be launching from our own shores (Image: Lockheed Martin)

The UK Space Agency made two landmark announcements this month: an international agreement with NASA and a third spaceport on the Shetland Islands.

What both these agreements mean for UK space is the potential to become one step closer to launching satellites.

The UK is one of the global leaders in making satellite parts but not in launching them. 

Shetland’s spaceport will work in tandem with a separate Space Hub in Sutherland.

JUST IN: Brexit news: row over fish still threatens to derail trade talks

Brexit news: The UK could be in pole position they claimed

Brexit news: The UK could be in pole position they claimed (Image: GETTY)

There is also a third Spaceport in Cornwall with the agency believing all three will not only boost the UK’s space launch capability but also provide vital jobs for the local economies.

The NASA agreement now states the UK will be in partnership with the agency on its Artemis programme.

This will work towards landing the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024.

The agency has come under fire this year following the scrapping of the UK alternative to the EU’s satellite navigation system, Galileo.

DON’T MISS
You’ve sold us out! Labour lashes out at Liz Truss over Japan deal [Latest]
They FINALLY get it! EU faces devastation for key industry [Update]
No 10’s fury as Sturgeon ‘refused’ to hand over Brexit plans [Insight]

Brexit news: An agreement was signed with NASA this month

Brexit news: An agreement was signed with NASA this month (Image: GETTY)

Brexit news: It is hoped the sector will boost the economy

Brexit news: It is hoped the sector will boost the economy (Image: PA)

Under Theresa May, the UK had pledged to create the British Global Navigation Satellite System but scrapped the project last month due it costing between £3-5billion.

This was after the UK pulled out of the Galileo project due to Brexit after contributing £1.2billion.

With these costs and the financial ruin coronavirus has caused, both officials at the agency stated the space sector is an essential sector for funding.

Mr Chaudry added: “I believe that space has an important if not fundamental part play in the success for the development of the UK beyond the first of January 2021.

“Space is all-encompassing, it covers a whole range of issues, not just security, but also from the science and from a trade and prosperity perspective.”

Mr Kuh concluded: “I think the key thing is, when people quite rightly ask why we invest money in space.

“And whether we can afford that, I would say, I don’t think we can afford not too if we want to have a modern, innovative economy with high skilled jobs.

Brexit news: The project was put forward under Theresa May

Brexit news: The project was put forward under Theresa May (Image: PA)

“We’ve seen throughout wildly challenging last six months or so that space companies are innovative companies, and they adapted and, and once they have been affected, and not been as effective as some other parts of the economy.

“The sector can drive economic growth, not just within the space sector, but within the wider economy. And that’s across all regions in the UK.”

Blog: Brexit fisheries row: EU’s humiliating climbdown ‘proves bloc will cave in talks’ – Express

This week, the UK signed a post- fisheries agreement with the Faroe Islands, following a similar deal with Norway. The country’s fisheries minister said: “This is a historic day for relations between the Faroes and the United Kingdom. “The signing of the Fisheries Agreement is a landmark in our history and a stepping stone in our joint ambition to develop further the cooperation between our two nations. “I am especially pleased with the sincere and constructive working relationship between Faroe and UK Ministers and officials in recent years.”

As the UK announced the deal, major differences remain in Brexit trade talks with the .

The bloc’s negotiator Michel Barnier, has warned the UK it will be excluded from European markets if British fishing grounds don’t remain open to European vessels.

However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson may find encouragement from the Faroe Islands’ own dispute with Brussels in 2013.

The EU sought to punish the Faroe Islands for allegedly plundering stocks of herring.

It represented the EU’s first resort to sanctions against a country in a fisheries dispute.

Maria Damanaki, the EU commissioner for fisheries, said the bloc had “no option but to move ahead and take all necessary steps in ensuring a sustainable herring fishery”.

However, Faroe Islands officials hit back at Brussels for starting an “economic war”.

Then prime minister of the country, Kaj Leo Holm, said: “It is short-sighted and ill-considered of the EU to take such an unjustifiable step against one of its nearest European neighbours.

“It is difficult to see what purpose these measures serve other than to protect fishing industry interests within the EU.”

Meanwhile, Iceland’s negotiator over mackerel quotas, Sigurgeir Thorgeirsson, said he considered any type of sanction “as illegal and not in line with international obligations”.

He added: “We can learn from the ‘Cod Wars’ that we must solve this dispute diplomatically rather than through an economic war.”

READ MORE: Brexit: French minister warns UK ‘we won’t budge’

The Faroes, together with Iceland, had been at odds with the EU and Norway for several years, fighting over quotas for herring and mackerel.

In the dispute, dubbed the “Mackerel Wars”, Icelandic and Faroese fisheries officials argued the migrating stocks allowed both countries to fish at much higher levels than their quotas would allow.

However, the row was eventually settled when, in 2014, the EU lifted sanctions while the Faroes withdrew their own action against the bloc.

Ms Damanaki said: “After long and intensive negotiations, I am satisfied that we can soon consider the herring dispute as something of the past.

DON’T MISS
Brexit fisheries clashes between EU and UK will ‘cost lives’ [INSIGHT]
Brexit fisheries row: EU’s preparations to bail out bloc’s fishermen [ANALYSIS]
Eye-watering amount Emmanuel Macron may lose from Brexit [INSIGHT]

“Faroese fishermen will be able to come back to EU waters and European fishermen can continue their traditional fisheries in Faroese waters.”

He added: “Let’s now focus on working hand in hand towards sustainable fisheries in the North-East Atlantic.”

The debacle arguably proves that the EU could yet back down in Brexit trade talks as diplomats in Brussels realise their zero-tolerance approach is not in their best interest.

In this way, the Faroe Islands dispute may offer David Frost and his team of UK negotiators hope of breaking the deadlock.