George Eustice slams Beaune's 'inflammatory' language

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Charlie Stayt welcomed Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minister George Eustice onto Friday’s BBC Breakfast to discuss the fishing row engulfing relations between the UK and France. The interview came following reports a British trawler has been seized by France and another has been fined. However, BBC viewers accused Stayt of appearing to support France’s view on the matter.

Stayt remarked: “Can I reference the words of Clément Beaune who is the French Europe Minister saying about you and your government, ‘The language of force seems to be the only thing this British Government understands.’”

“Well look I think that is completely inflammatory and the wrong way to go about these things,” Eustice replied. 

“The truth is we are abiding by the terms of the Trading and Cooperation Agreement (TCA).

“We made an offer to the European Union in that agreement that if they forfeited some of their quota in our waters and they gave up about 25 percent of their quota we would give them continued access for qualifying vessels.”

Read more: Fishing row ‘completely blown out of proportion’

“The terms of that was those vessels had to have been in our waters during a reference period that was four years – this is a common term in fishery negotiations, understood by all sides,” he continued. 

“France understood what that meant and we’ve applied that in full and granted licenses to all the vessels that are entitled to one.

“We have an ever-open door if there’s some new data they’d like to bring to us on remaining vessels.

“But for now those vessels don’t qualify and they’ve been unable to demonstrate that they accessed our waters.”

BBC Breakfast viewers weren’t impressed with the interview and took to Twitter to comment.

@paul86002225 wrote: “Sad, but you can’t help but think our national broadcaster is on the side of the French.”

@Hmmmm12245233 added: “@BBC really should drop the British from their name and rebrand, it’s clearly embarrassing for them and a breach of the trades description act. @BBCBreakfast pushing the French fisheries case in the face of all the facts @DefundBBC.”

“Once again anything but back the UK Government against the French. #DefundTheBBC,” @Pepper59569815 tweeted.

@Veratruth2 shared: “#BBCBreakfast the French act unlawfully and Charlie seems to take their side.”

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“Charlie you are being exceptionally antagonist and trying to generate a story! Poor show BBC,” @RBATHJ argued.

However, @redpathj disagreed: “Oh dear George Eustice, stamping your feet like a spoilt child on @BBCBreakfast this morning. You lot created this mess with your phoney Brexit.”

Eustice criticised France’s threat to block British boats from its ports and quipped: “Two can play at that game.”

Stayt pressed the Tory MP on whether he would consider stopping French vessels from landing in the UK but he hit back: “I’m not going to get in to all the things we might do. 

“But if the French do continue with this then yes we will take a proportionate response to that.”

“A moment ago you were excusing the French of being inflammatory and escalating things – do you think your words this morning are not doing the same thing?” Stayt asked. 

Eustice replied: “No because what I’m saying this morning is we’ve abiding by the TCA, we’ve issued licenses to 98 percent of vessels that applied of it, we’ve explained to both France and the UK why the remaining vessels don’t qualify, we’ve said, for now, we’re not going to respond in the way France has.

“But we reserve the right to do more things if France presses ahead with these threats.”

Earlier, Eustice sent a stern warning to France as tensions continue to rise during an interview on Sky News.

 

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He said: “The first thing is, the way that we approach these things and the way that you should is we will be talking to the European Commission.

“In fact, I spoke to the Commissioner two days ago when these threats were first made because the European Commission has got a role and a responsibility to make sure its member states, including France, abide by the law and abide by the terms of the agreement that was reached.

“We’ve also summoned the French ambassador and Liz Truss is going to raise these issues with her and ask her to explain and give an account of what they intend to do.

“We don’t know what they’ll do, they say they wouldn’t introduce these measures until Tuesday, probably at the earliest.

“So we will see what they do, but obviously if they do bring these into place then two can play at that game and we obviously reserve the ability to be able to respond in a proportionate way.”

BBC Breakfast airs on BBC One daily at 6am.

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