Former Environment Secretary George Eustice has criticised Lord Frost over his approach to the negotiations which led to the UK-EU TCA

Former Environment Secretary George Eustice has criticised Lord Frost over his approach to fisheries in the Brexit negotiations

Former Cabinet Minister, George Eustice has criticised the UK’s chief negotiator during Brexit, Lord Frost, for doing fisheries the disservice of leaving it last on the negotiations agenda with the European Union.

Eustice was Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in Boris Johnson’s Conservative government between 13 February 2020 and 06 September 2022, until the short-lived reign of Liz Truss as Prime Minister seen him unceremoniously ousted for the portfolio.

Lord Frost has been appointed chief negotiator for Brexit negotiations by then Prime Minister Boris Johnson, but many in the fishing and seafood industry were left feeling that they were sold very short after the signing of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement on 30 December 2020.

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A raft of seriously important issues were overlooked on fisheries as both sides sought to push through an agreement that was basically signed-off on many levels by the UK and the EU. Some in the fisheries sector feel that because fisheries was the last discussion on the agenda, the government saw it as the least important industry, and would be open for a bad deal.

The fears were borne into reality as the “Sea of Opportunity” promised pre the Brexit vote, quickly morphed into a puddle of mud. The UK signed-off on a deal which allowed EU vessels to continue operating in UK waters at the same level as pre-Brexit, and in some cases, EU member states boats began fishing UK waters more intensely, especially around the English Channel.

Some critics have indicated that the only winners in fisheries out of the TCA was the pelagic sector in Scotland who won a huge concession on mackerel from the EU, but for everyone else, especially in the Channel, promises that were made were left broken, something Eustice says he recognised at the time. Speaking to the BBC yesterday George Eustice said:

“There’s no doubt that I wanted more in the six-to-12-mile zone.

“I regret in some ways, I tried to persuade Lord Frost, our chief negotiator, that we should have made some early concessions on fisheries to try to get the discussion into a better place.

“He was reluctant to make any concessions and in the end it all happened in the final few days, and it didn’t serve us well leaving fisheries to the very end.

“I think it would have been better if it had been addressed earlier in the negotiation.”

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Eustice criticises Lord Frost over approach to fisheries in Brexit negotiations

by editor time to read: 6 min