UK must act ‘constructively’ in fishing row, says Taoiseach

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said Ireland stands in solidarity with other EU countries amid fresh tensions the UK over fishing.
UK must act ‘constructively’ in fishing row, says Taoiseach

Dominic McGrath, PA

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has urged the UK government to act constructively in a post-Brexit fishing row with France.

Speaking at the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow, Mr Martin said Ireland stands in solidarity with other EU countries amid fresh tensions with the UK over fishing.

He said that there was a concern that the UK has not been engaging with the EU in a “constructive manner”.

“We believe the European Union and the UK government need to engage constructively on a whole range of issues, not least fisheries.”

“I believe there is discussion under way between the UK government and the French government and that they may be in a position to get that issue resolved.”

“We would like to see that resolved, independent of the protocol,” he told reporters.

The fishing row adds to the tensions around UK-European Union relations, with the dispute over the Northern Ireland Protocol also causing a diplomatic row with Brussels.

The dispute with France was triggered by decisions made by the authorities in the UK and Jersey over licences for small French boats to operate in British waters, with officials arguing permission can only be given to vessels which can demonstrate a history of fishing there.

Cop26 – Glasgow
Taoiseach Micheál Martin arrives for the Cop26 summit (Phil Noble/PA)

French officials have warned they will bar UK fishing boats from some ports and tighten customs checks on lorries entering the country unless more licences are granted.

French president Emmanuel Macron, who held talks with British prime minister Boris Johnson at the G20 summit in Rome on Sunday and was welcomed to the Cop26 climate change conference by Mr Johnson in Glasgow on Monday, said the ball is in the UK’s court.

“If the British don’t do any significant move, measures starting from November 2nd will need to be implemented,” he warned on Sunday.

The Irish Government has been to the forefront of the ongoing row between London and Brussels over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Unionists and loyalists remain deeply opposed to the creation of fresh checks on trade between the North and Britain. On Monday, a bus was hijacked and set alight in Newtownards in an attack which politicians in the North have linked to loyalist opposition to the protocol.

The UK and EU have recently brought forward proposals in a bid to resolve the dispute. Mr Martin said that he believed negotiations can still be a success.

“If there’s a will there now, the presentation that the Commission has made, gives the platform to conclude these negotiations rapidly if people want to because I think Europe has come a long way in respect of the operation and details of the Protocol,” he said.

“Huge progress has been made and I believe the UK government should respond in kind.

“It is in the best interests of the Good Friday Agreement and in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland.”

“The signals are not that strong but we will work with our European colleagues, with the United Kingdom government, as there is some distance to go yet.”

He said that the UK and the EU need to move on from “micro-disputes” and that many issues can be resolved with “common sense”.

“To allow these issues to fester is not good,” he warned.

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