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Thursday 5 March 2020

Environment minister confirms Britain will take back control of fishing waters

Environment minister, George Eustice yesterday confirmed the EU will have less access to UK fishing waters after the transition period ends in December.

“If it were the case that a partnership agreement could not be agreed by July then it would be under international law the case in any event that we would automatically become an independent coastal state,” George Eustice told a committee of MPs.

“When we leave the EU we will take full control of that resource. It will be for us to decide who can access our waters and on what terms.”

MPs also wanted to know how the government would deal with the potential threat of EU boats, particularly from France, blocking access to continental ports, disrupting trade.

“We already have enforcement in our waters, the EU doesn’t have any enforcement capabilities,” the minister explained.

“We have significantly increased our enforcement capabilities.”

In its negotiating mandate, the EU has made it clear, a trade deal is dependent on the likes of France, Belgium, Spain, Denmark and the Netherlands retaining rampant access to UK waters.

Last week, France’s Europe minister took the hysteria up a notch, predicting a “nasty battle”.

“On fish and other topics, all we play it with emotion, with drama, with passion, with symbols and we know how to make it a very I think nasty battle,” said Amelie de Montchalin.

Do the French want another Trafalgar?

Looser immigration rules for Scotland

Boris and the leader of the Scottish Tories, Jackson Carlaw have discussed a more “flexible” immigration system.

The Telegraph reports the two leaders have explored options for something more “agile and comprehensive” that will likely see salary thresholds watered down and more job profiles facing skills shortages added to the list of special cases.

Carlaw is under pressure from Scottish businesses to deliver a different system to the one being put in place in the rest of the UK. Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon is calling for a completely separate visa system.

Carlaw will be able to claim a victory for the Scottish Tories in getting a compromise.

Sounds fairly reasonable, but a significant minority of Scots voted for independence and loosening the popular points-based immigration system in Scotland runs the risk of undermining the new policy throughout the UK. Where will it end?

Round one of EU trade talks end today

The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier will summarise UK-EU trade talks, which began on Monday, at a noon press conference today. David Frost, Britain’s top negotiator will not be present.

It’s early days yet, but according to various sources consulted by Politico, Eurocrats have finally got the message: Britain is leaving the Single Market. If true, this is a major breakthrough, a deal can now be done.

The confusion surrounding Theresa May’s contradictory pursuit of independence alongside a “deep and special partnership” has given way to clarity under Boris.

“Beyond the headline issues the two parties aren’t so far apart,” said Sam Lowe of think tank, the Centre for European Reform.

“A basic UK-EU deal in goods which covers some aspects of services is possible, but it will require both sides to compromise,” said Georgina Wright of the Institute for Government – a revolving door think tank for civil servants.

The IFG is unashamedly pro-EU, but Wright isn’t wrong. In its negotiating mandate, the EU says the UK “must” retain EU regulations.

For a deal to happen, there will have to be a massive compromise. Boris needs to stay strong. It’s for Brussels to make the U-turns now.