Government publishes Fisheries Bill to ‘take back control of our waters’: Brexit News for Wednesday 29 January

Government publishes Fisheries Bill to ‘take back control of our waters’: Brexit News for Wednesday 29 January

Government publishes Fisheries Bill to ‘take back control of our waters’…

All fish stocks in UK waters will be fished at sustainable levels after Brexit, the government says, as it publishes new legislation. The Fisheries Bill gives the UK power to operate as an independent coastal state and guarantees it will quit the EU Common Fisheries Policy in December. Environment group Greener UK welcomed the focus on sustainability. But fishing is likely to be a key area of contention in post-Brexit trade talks between the EU and UK. The Common Fisheries Policy currently sets out how much British fishermen can catch and where. It also allows vessels registered elsewhere in the EU to fish in UK waters – but the new legislation will end those automatic rights of access. Instead, access will be for the UK to negotiate in the future and foreign vessels will have to be licensed if they fish in British waters. Earlier this week, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told the BBC the UK “may have to make concessions (in a future EU trade agreement) in areas like fishing in order to get concessions from us in areas like financial services”. But Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers insisted the bill “takes back control of our waters”. She said it would enable the UK “to create a sustainable, profitable fishing industry for our coastal communities, whilst securing the long-term health of British fisheries”. She added that leaving the “failed” Common Fisheries Policy was “one of the most important benefits of Brexit”. – BBC News

…as fishermen warn Boris Johnson not to cave in to ‘hollow EU threats’ on fishing

British fishermen have reacted with anger after Brussels demanded the UK roll over current shares to fishing access once the country has left the European Union. Fishing for Leave, a group formed to “highlight the potential of UK fisheries”, expressed outrage over recent EU decision-making. The bloc, which will see the UK depart as a member at the end of the month, has stipulated that Britain roll over current Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) access and quota shares. Aaron Brown, from Fishing for Leave, expressed his anger at the lack of criticism by the government. He also ripped into the “false narrative” created by the EU to say it is a fait accompli to sacrifice fishing in any future UK deal. He said: “The EU’s threats are absolutely hollow brinkmanship. “70 percent of UK catches going to the continent means the EU is desperately dependent on UK seafood exports – it is a staple of southern Europe’s diet. The EU fleet is automatically out and we repatriate our resources as per international law if there is no agreement on fisheries – we don’t need to negotiate anything.” – Express

MEPs set to approve Brexit deal in historic vote this afternoon

The European Parliament is set to approve the terms of the UK’s departure from the European Union in an historic vote on Wednesday. The 751 representatives will debate the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement in Brussels before, it is widely expected, giving their backing to the UK-EU treaty. The landmark session is set to feature valedictory speeches and even music. It will mark the final stage of the ratification process, ahead of the UK’s exit at 23:00 GMT on 31 January. The UK participated in its last meeting as an EU member on Tuesday when Foreign Office minister Chris Pincher attended the General Affairs Council. The European Parliament’s approval is the final hurdle to be cleared for Brexit to go ahead. However, Wednesday’s session will be largely symbolic. The outcome of the vote is not in any doubt after the Withdrawal Agreement was signed off by key parliamentary committees last week. The proceedings will be an opportunity for those on either side of the Brexit battles of recent years, including the UK’s 73 MEPs, to celebrate or lament the end of the UK’s membership of the EU after 47 years. – BBC News

  • New Scottish MEP Heather Anderson starts role four days before Brexit – Sky News

UK and EEA EFTA States sign Separation Agreement

The UK, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein have today signed the EEA EFTA Separation Agreement. This agreement largely mirrors the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated with the EU. The agreement protects the rights of 17,000 UK nationals living in the EEA EFTA States and 15,000 EEA EFTA nationals living in the UK, ensuring that at the end of the Transition Period they will be able to enjoy broadly the same rights as they do now. It also resolves a small number of other issues arising from the UK’s exit from the EU. Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay signed the agreement on behalf of the UK, alongside representatives of Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Mr Barclay said: “This agreement underlines the importance of our relationships with our close friends and allies in the EEA EFTA states. It will protect the rights of citizens and provide certainty to business as the UK leaves the EU, ensuring an orderly withdrawal and smooth transition as we put in place new arrangements for our future relationship with the EEA EFTA States.” – GOV.UK

EU to start talks with UK on post-Brexit relationship on 3rd March

Negotiations on the UK’s post-Brexit relationship with the EU will start on 3 March, the Guardian has learned. Officials led by Michel Barnier and Boris Johnson’s Europe adviser, David Frost, will embark on the vital talks in the spring with a challenging 10-month deadline. The UK is due to leave the EU on Friday at midnight central European time – nearly four years since the referendum. The prime minister has said he will not extend the transition period past 31 December 2020. Until then, the UK will stay in the single market and customs union. A leaked internal document from the EU member states, seen by the Guardian, notes that without a deal by the end of December 2020, there will be a “cliff edge” in many areas and “no return to the status quo”. Once the talks start in earnest on 3 March, it will be access to fishing waters and the EU’s demand for a “level playing field” that are likely to pose the biggest obstacles to success. – Guardian 

Foreign Office Minister Chris Pincher is last British minister to attend an EU meeting

A British minister has attended a European Union meeting for the final time before the UK leaves the bloc on Friday. Arriving for his last General Affairs Council meeting in Brussels, Foreign Office Minister Chris Pincher said the UK was set for an “historic week”. He added that despite Brexit, the UK and EU countries would remain “allies, partners and friends”. The European Parliament will hold its vote on the Brexit deal on Wednesday. It comes after the withdrawal agreement was formally signed by Boris Johnson and EU leaders last week. Topics discussed at Tuesday’s meeting included Croatia’s six-month stint in charge of the EU presidency, which officially begins this month. Mr Pincher told reporters: “I’m here to reassert to my EU friends and colleagues that, though we are leaving the EU, we are not leaving Europe. Our shared history, our shared values, our commitment to security and prosperity continue as equals – sovereign equals.” He wished his counterparts “the best for the future”. – BBC News

Michael Gove promises to engage with devolved politicians during further EU talks

“Rich and deep conversations” are needed with devolved governments on the UK’s future relationship with the EU, a senior cabinet minister has said. Michael Gove met ministers from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland ahead of Brexit on Friday. But Mr Gove did not commit to giving them a formal role in the negotiating process, after the meeting in Cardiff. Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford said there had been an “engaged discussion” on how to proceed. With the UK leaving the European Union at 23:00 GMT on Friday, the Welsh and Scottish Governments and Northern Ireland Executive are seeking to influence the nature of the relationship with the bloc. Britain will follow EU rules and have the same trading relationship as now until the end of the year, during a transition phase. Speaking to BBC Wales after Tuesday’s meeting, held at the Welsh Government headquarters in Cardiff, Mr Gove said he wanted to ensure “we have rich and deep conversations, not just with the Welsh Government but also with our colleagues in Northern Ireland and Scotland”. “Ultimately, it’s the UK government that’s in the negotiating room, and there was a very clear mandate at the general election,” he said. “People wanted Boris Johnson to deliver Brexit and to unleash Britain’s potential. Alongside that, it’s also important that we make sure that the contributions from politicians across the United Kingdom are there at the heart of our negotiating strategy.” – BBC News

Protests over PM’s Brexit plan could become ‘more serious’ in Northern Ireland, loyalist warns

A prominent loyalist has warned Boris Johnson’s Brexit plan could mean protests spilling over into “something more serious” if it weakens Northern Ireland’s place in the UK. Northern Ireland remains one of the most complex and intractable parts of the Brexit conundrum and experts say the issue will require much more negotiation between the UK, Ireland and rest of the EU. Northern Ireland remains one of the most tricky areas to be resolved in upcoming negotiations, as EU and UK politicians work out how broad principles agreed by Mr Johnson will work in practice.Last year the prime minister struck a deal with Brussels which will see Northern Ireland keep some EU rules on the regulation of goods after Brexit. Meanwhile, customs duties will have to be paid on goods being moved from Great Britain to Northern Ireland if those products are considered “at risk” of then being transported into the Republic of Ireland, and the EU. – Sky News

David Scullion: The ERG Spartans who remade Britain

It was probably the most important Commons decision since the Second World War. On 29 March, 2019, 28 so-called “Spartan” Conservatives defied the Whip under unrelenting pressure and helped vote down Theresa May’s EU Withdrawal Agreement for the third time. They were reviled for their actions by most Brexiteer pundits and politicians, but for them, the issue was fundamental and the consequences monumental. How and why did it happen, and might it yet be undone? The debate itself saw high parliamentary drama to rank with the Norway debate in 1940. This, unlike the referendum, was a decision made in parliament by a handful of MPs in the most chaotic political conditions in living memory. On it hung not only the country’s future relationship with Europe, but the very survival of the Tory party.  The 28 MPs were widely condemned for their actions, but triggered a series of events that led to the first significant Conservative majority in 30 years, with the supposedly impossible-to-reopen Withdrawal Agreement duly reopened along the way. No one but them saw this as being even slightly feasible. Predictably the pundits did not foresee these events. Most markedly, pro-Brexit commentators on the right (Iain Martin, Tim Montgomerie, Fraser Nelson, Henry Newman, James Forsyth, the editorial writers of ConservativeHome and the Spectator) were all for accepting the Withdrawal Agreement by the time of the decisive vote. If the commentators of the avowedly Eurosceptic right were wrong, then the journalism of the left, Remain and the BBC was spectacularly faulty. When a Eurosceptic renaissance in the Conservative Party had to rely on the votes of the Labour Party and Remain Tory MPs to pull off one of the biggest political heists in modern times, you know somebody miscalculated. Do Dominic Grieve and Hilary Benn regret joining with Steve Baker and Mark Francois to help deliver Brexit and Boris’s majority? It would be impolite to ask. – David Scullion for The Critic

Philip Davies: Better Off Out – the campaign that shattered Westminster’s taboo about leaving the EU

Watching newly-elected MPs make their maiden speeches in the House of Commons always makes me think back to the one I made in the House of Commons shortly after I was first elected at the 2005 General Election. Maiden speeches give new MPs the chance to set their stall out regarding what they wish to achieve in their time in Parliament and I was determined to do just that. In my maiden speech, in June 2005, I said “I want…..a country that has a sovereign Parliament, not one run by a corrupt and inefficient institution called the European Union, which we subsidise to the tune of billions of pounds a year”. Despite the then Chief Whip, David Maclean, making it clear to me that I must not persist in speaking publicly to leave the EU, I accepted an invitation from The Freedom Association to speak at their fringe meeting at the 2005 Conservative Party conference on why we should leave. The fact that the Yorkshire Post reported me at that meeting as the first MP to publicly say explicitly that we should leave the EU shows how out of touch the House of Commons had become on the issue. There were many MPs who would say we needed to get powers back from the EU, but none were prepared to say we should leave altogether. As with so many issues, the voters were way ahead of the politicians. – Philip Davies MP for ConservativeHome

Oliver Wright: Brexit explained – the story so far and where we are now

In the end it was Sunderland that showed the way again. Three and a half years earlier voters in the city had provided the first inkling that Britain was about to take the momentous decision to leave the European Union after 40 years of membership. And on a cold, wet December night last year the city’s voters sent another clear message to Westminster: they wanted Brexit completed. By the next morning that message had been repeated across the country with an emphatic election victory for the Tories and a prime minister who had run a campaign pegged on a central pledge to “get Brexit done”. Now at 11pm next Friday — ironically delivered on European time — Britain will finally leave the EU. But without even having taken place, Brexit has arguably already had the most profound effect on British politics of any event in the past century outside wartime. It has ended the careers of two prime ministers, eight cabinet ministers and over 80 MPs. It has forced two elections that upended traditional political loyalties and tested the country’s unwritten constitution to its limits. And with Britain’s future relationship with the EU still to be negotiated, the profound implications of Brexit are far from finished business. Boris Johnson and the Brexiteers are now the masters of all they survey. But for the first time they are also exclusively in charge of its destiny and will be judged on its success. So how did we get to where we are now? What were the pivotal moments? And could things have turned out differently? – Oliver Wright for The Times (£)

Rachel Sylverster: Tory conflict poses Boris Johnson’s biggest test

If he were being honest, Boris Johnson would quote his hero Winston Churchill when Britain formally leaves the European Union on Friday. “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” Brexit day will be marked by a countdown clock beamed on to the walls of Downing Street, a red white and blue light show and Union flags along Whitehall, yet even Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the Brexiteer former Tory leader, admits that the next stage is going to be “the most difficult phase of all”. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, has warned of a rupture if there is no agreement this year about the future relationship between London and Brussels. The commemorative 50p Brexit coin promises “peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations” but the United States, which was supposed to be at the front of the queue for a trade deal, is threatening a trade war. For the prime minister, the most difficult challenge may be political. There is a conflict between the ambitions of the traditional Conservative Eurosceptics who chose him as their leader and the needs of new Tory voters in former Labour seats who gave him his parliamentary majority. The “true blue” free-market Conservatives want to create a buccaneering Britain, liberated from the EU’s rules and regulations. The “blue collar” Tories living in Labour’s former “red wall” heartlands are just as determined to get Brexit done but many have jobs that depend on staying closely aligned to the EU. – Rachel Sylvester for The Times (£)

Allison Pearson: Sorry, Remainers, but you made us fight for Brexit – we deserve a party 

How dare he? I mean, why would Michael Heseltine and other prominent Remainers presume to prescribe how we choose to mark the United Kingdom leaving the European Union on Friday?  The former Conservative deputy prime minister turned Lib Dem supporter says it would be unwise of the Government “to rub our noses in it by celebrating our defeat at this hour, while talking about unifying the country”. Hmmm. I get the distinct impression that Lord Heseltine and his fellow federalist fanatics would prefer it if we didn’t mention this historic occasion at all. First, allowing Big Ben to bong symbolically at 11pm was ruled out for being too expensive. A clanging £500,000 was one estimate, a figure that grew even more absurd than that projection about how many would lose their jobs should the British be stupid enough to vote Leave. Remember George Osborne warning us that backing Brexit would cause unemployment to rise by up to 500,000 within two years? Turns out Gypsy Rose George was talking crystal balls. Last week, the UK employment rate achieved a record high of 76.3 per cent. Have I missed the apology for getting that so embarrassingly wrong? – Allison Pearson for the Telegraph (£)

Graham Stewart: Jon Moynihan, the flamboyant businessman who played a key role in Brexit

On a summer evening in June 2016, five days after the referendum result had been declared, a celebratory drinks party took place in the back garden of a large house in Chelsea. Rupert Murdoch was there. Especially prominent were Vote Leave’s business backers, among them Peter Cruddas, Anthony Bamford and Helena Morrissey. The evening had the air of a cast party marking the culmination of a successful West End run, the cast reliving the best bits of the concluded drama before going their separate ways. Surveying the 200 guests from the top of the garden steps was Daniel Hannan, who had as much right as anyone there to see the vote for Brexit as the culmination of his adult life’s work. Beside him on the steps stood the party’s host, the president of the Royal Albert Hall. “The test of patriotism,” Hannan suggested to him, “is how much you do without recognition.” Then Hannan added, “and it is you who has done the most with the least recognition.” The architects of Brexit are many — and can be found in the index of all good published accounts of the campaign — but the role of Jon Moynihan has gone largely unrecorded. Yet, in the estimation of those with the most battle scars to show, it was this man, variously described as “flamboyant”, “argumentative”, “bullying”, “high energy”, “iconoclastic” and “persuasive, convincing and fun”, whose sacrifice for the cause has proved least commensurate to its recognition. – Graham Stewart for The Critic

Philip Johnston: Britain’s long goodbye will leave an unfillable hole in the EU project

We have always exhibited a lukewarm, half-hearted commitment that not only irritates our erstwhile EU partners but perplexes them, too. It is why they are so hurt by our departure and find it hard to comprehend. Like a partner in a marriage whose spouse has walked out for no obvious reason, they are in a state of bewilderment that will turn to resentment when they see the consequences of the UK’s absence. We are witnessing that reaction now. There are mutterings about selling fishing rights for access to the EU financial markets and for the European Court to retain residual powers in the UK. Meanwhile, Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s prime minister, laughably dismisses the UK as “a small country”. Yet in terms of the combined GDP of the EU, the UK is the equivalent of 19 countries leaving at the same time. Within 15 years, moreover, we will have Europe’s biggest population, overtaking Germany. The UK’s departure leaves a gaping hole in the political project, as well as the EU budget, and we should not be surprised if there is a backlash from our spurned allies in the coming months. Just as when we joined 47 years ago, Friday’s farewell is as big a moment for them as it is for us. – Philip Johnston for the Telegraph (£)

Alan Cochrane: Scotland deserves better than Nicola Sturgeon’s pathetic, childish and humiliating obsession with the EU flag

For wholly pathetic, childish gestures it would appear that you just cannot beat Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish Government. In a fit of absolute pique, the like of which this long-time political observer had never seen before, the First Minister and SNP leader has decided to try and overrule, and effectively humiliate, the non-partisan Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament over the flying of the EU flag outside the Holyrood building. At a time when educational attainment is struggling to match international standards, when hospitals are either not being built or are criticised for their level of care and where economic performance is patchy to say the least, Ms Sturgeon has decided that the EU flag is the most important issue on her desk. The all-party corporate body that runs Holyrood had already decided that as the UK will no longer be a member of the EU after January 31, its flag will no longer fly alongside the Saltire and Union Jack at the parliament’s entrance. However, this surely inconsequential decision appears to have reduced the SNP government to something approaching apoplexy. First of all the corporate body members were ‘encouraged’ – badgered might have been a better description – to change their minds; something they refused to do. – Alan Cochrane for the Telegraph (£)

Mark Wallace: How Eurosceptics survived the wilderness years, and returned to win the day

Looking at the full story of Brexit, in the longer sweep of modern history, there are two really important achievements which made it possible. And, perhaps unusually, they operated in tension with one another. The first is the simple fact of the survival of the Eurosceptic or anti-EU movement at all. The fact that the movement which lost the 1975 referendum so heavily, which was rebuffed so resoundingly in the 1983 election, and which stood every chance of dwindling away to nothing actually kept going for all those years is itself quite remarkable. For a long time, there were more bleak years than warm days. Being anti-EU wasn’t cool, or something anyone did to get ahead in their career. It was easy for shiny Blairites, and equally polished Cameroons, to mock the Eurosceptics and take their unfashionability as confirmation that they were wrong. Easy, but mistaken; because they had another powerful asset to sustain them in addition to a stubborn refusal to give up. The EU kept proving its critics right, and rallying people to the Eurosceptic cause. The sacrifice of democratic control involved in the Maastricht Treaty alarmed many people; the obvious risks of a Single Currency reached millions more; the insistence that referendums be repeated if they didn’t go the ‘right’ way began to rankle, and the lesson became obvious over time that this was a ratchet, operating inexorably in only one direction. – Mark Wallace for ConservativeHome

Brexit in Brief

  • The Age of Miracles has not passed – Alan Sked for Global Britain
  • The abuse my family has faced means Brexit has never felt like a victory – Sarah Vine for the Daily Mail
  • Cambridge lawyer slammed for ‘shameful’ swastika Brexit coin tweet – Cambridgeshire Live
  • Nicola Sturgeon vows to keep flying EU flag over Scottish HQ after the UK leaves the bloc on Friday – MailOnline
  • Piers Morgan blasts Remainer Terry Christian over controversial tweet – MailOnline

And finally… Tory party sells £12 ‘Got Brexit Done’ celebratory tea towel

Downing Street might be quietly warning Conservative Brexiters against overt triumphalism before Friday’s departure from the EU, but the message has not seemingly reached party HQ, which has launched a range of merchandise with the slogan “Got Brexit Done”. Among the offerings is a £12 tea towel showing the slogan above an image of Boris Johnson flanked by a union flag and Britannia-style shield. Around the edge the departure date is spelled out in Latin: “XXXI Jan – Anno MMXX”. For £15 you can get a blue-and-white mug with a more personal, “I got Brexit done!” slogan, and the date. Like the tea towel, it is billed by the website as “Proudly printed in the UK”. Mimicking the Johnson-and-shield design of the tea towel, a fridge magnet with the slogan costs £6. The website says: “These official fridge magnets represent a momentous new chapter in the UK’s history, and make fantastic keepsakes or gifts for friends and family.” Cheapest of all is an “I got Brexit done” lapel pin, showing a union flag and the departure date. – Guardian