Theresa May reveals EU wants never-done-before deal to continue fishing UK waters
By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 6 Mar 2018
The Prime Minister used her Brexit speech in London on Friday to warn that the UK cannot get all its own way in the upcoming exit negotiations.
Cabinet members and former prime ministers have been giving grandstanding speeches all week but it was the prospect of what Theresa May would have to say that really whetted appetites.
The Conservative Party leader used her Mansion House appearance to warn those on both the UK and EU sides they must accept life after Brexit will not be plain sailing and that it is time to “face up to some hard facts”.
Fishing focal point
The PM said she wanted 'reciprocal access' to UK and EU waters
Not many commentators have expected the future of British waters to form a big part of the PM’s speech. But it was in her comments on fisheries that she gave onlookers a key insight – Brexit will bring back control but there will be compromises still.
Mrs May reiterated that the UK will leave the Common Fisheries Policy and take control of access to British waters – the very thing many Grimsby leave voters want.
And she also heralded the rich British waters as one of the UK’s strongest assets and revealed how the EU is desperate to hold onto access rights for its fishermen.
“On fisheries, the [European] Commission has been clear that no precedents exist for the sort of access it wants from the UK,” said Mrs May.
That comment will worry some leave fans because the PM could well be tempted to barter on fishing rights in order to win other concessions from Brussels.
Mrs May even said she hoped to “agree reciprocal access to waters” for EU and UK fishermen. Eurosceptics will be keeping a close eye on what that means exactly.
Life will be tougher outside EU
Theresa May said UK and EU needed to accept 'hard facts' about Brexit (Image: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
The PM – in what was seen as a warning to her warring party – said things would be “different” after the UK leaves, especially when it comes to the ease of doing business.
“Life is going to be different. In certain ways, our access to each other’s markets will be less than it is now,” Mrs May warned, as she reiterated that the UK will leave the single market and customs union.
She accepts now that no country can “enjoy all the benefits without all of the obligations” involved with EU membership.
The challenge will be working out which sectors remain tied to EU single market rules and which ones diverge.
Mrs May has already laid out her position on some sectors – she sees no problem with the UK energy industry signing-up to EU standards (likely to be good news for the offshore wind sector) but in the burgeoning digital sector (which includes driverless cars, new technology, app creation etc), the Government wants full freedom away from EU alignment.
Brexiteers must swallow ECJ pill
Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers has previously called ECJ interference after Brexit a 'red line' in the negotiations
Leading Eurosceptic figures such as Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson have often referred to the continued influence of the European Court of Justice after Brexit as a ‘red line’.
But one of the PM’s “hard facts” was the UK would have to accept that “the jurisdiction of the ECJ, EU law and the decisions of the ECJ will continue to affect us”.
This would be especially true if the UK wanted to make it easy for itself by staying a member of European agencies – such as Euratom, European Medicines Agency and the European Aviation Safety Agency, for example – in order to make free movement of medicines, chemicals and planes etc simple.
“If we agree that the UK should continue to participate in an EU agency the UK would have to respect the remit of the ECJ in that regard,” she said.
The EU has constantly dismissed the Government’s trade negotiation aims as “cherry picking” – choosing what Britain does and doesn’t like about being part of the EU and its trading arrangements.
But Mrs May was right in her assessment of negotiations – all free trade deals involve some element of cherry-picking and, if Europe wants continued access to the large UK trade, research and knowledge market, then it will have to start to take some of these asks seriously.
The gloss, however, from Mrs May’s rhetoric has gone. She accepts life will be different after Brexit – trade and movement will be harder, she admitted.
The job of the negotiators will be to mitigate against the pain of the split as far as they can.
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