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

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A French fisherman in the port of Boulogne (PA) (PA Wire)
A French fisherman in the port of Boulogne (PA) (PA Wire)

Irish premier Micheal 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 Taoiseach Micheal Martin said that Ireland stands in solidarity with other EU countries amid fresh tensions with the UK over fishing.

Mr Martin 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 Brexit deal’s 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.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin arrives for the Cop26 summit (Phil Noble/PA) (PA Wire)
Taoiseach Micheal Martin arrives for the Cop26 summit (Phil Noble/PA) (PA Wire)

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 Boris Johnson at the G20 summit in Rome on Sunday and was welcomed to the Cop26 climate change conference by the Prime Minister 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 2 will need to be implemented,” he warned on Sunday.

Mr Martin’s Government has been to the forefront of the ongoing row between London and Brussels over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The terms of the protocol effectively keep Northern Ireland in the single market, creating a border down the Irish Sea.

Unionists and loyalists remain deeply opposed to the creation of fresh checks on trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

On Monday, a bus was hijacked and set alight in Newtownards in an attack politicians in Northern Ireland 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 that 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.

On Monday afternoon, Mr Martin met with US President Joe Biden on the fringes of the conference in Glasgow.

On Twitter, Mr Martin said: “President Biden reaffirmed to me the United States’ full support for the Good Friday Agreement.”

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