Gove vows to ramp up maritime defence as UK fed up of fishermen ‘losing out’ to EU

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Brexit negotiations have proceeded tentatively as fishing emerged as one of the most divisive points in the talks with the European Union. Brussels has demanded continued access to British waters for its vessels past the end of the transition period in December. But Michael Gove signalled the UK remains unwilling to concede as he insisted maritime security capabilities will be strengthened once Britain has left the bloc.

Addressing colleagues in the House of Commons, Mr Gove said: “Under the Common Fisheries Policy it’s not just the case that environmentally we’ve lost out, it’s also the case that the coastal communities have lost out as well.

“As an independent coastal state, we will be able to rebalance the opportunities in our waters to ensure our coastal communities can benefit more financially.

“And we will replace the European Maritime Fisheries Fund with new funding to ensure there are facilities onshore in order to help with the processing of the fish that we catch.

“And, of course, we will enhance our maritime security capability as well.”

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The warning comes as UK negotiator Lord Frost continues his attempts to secure an agreement with Brussels on fisheries.

The issue is thekey to unlock a deal”, according to EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

However, understands the Frenchman is demanding Britain agreest to a big share of quotas EU fleets in return for access to the common market.

A Whitehall source said: “Brussels seems to be playing around here, we are determined to secure a deal.

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“This is a difficult period, Barnier is already making things difficult with fisheries.

“We will be an independent coastal state and will not back down.”

Time is running out to secure a deal at the end of the transition period on December 31, with businesses fearing the high trade tariffs they would face in the absence of an agreement.

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Since the start of the negotiations with Brussels, the UK has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Greenland to improve cooperation on fishing matters.

The deal with Greenland is the third coastal agreement put in place after successful talks with Norway and the Faroe Islands concluded earlier in the autumn.

Fisheries Minister Victoria Prentis said: “The UK and Greenland both have a proud history as outward-looking countries who have benefited from the wealth of our seas.

“As we regain our position as an independent coastal state, we are committed to working with our North-East Atlantic neighbours, like Greenland, for the benefit of our fishing industries and our marine environment.”

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