Brexit: Rows with EU over fish threatening deal for finance sector, warn Lib Dems

Exclusive: Liberal Democrats demand urgent movement on access for City firms

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
@andywoodcock
Monday 17 May 2021 07:44
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The UK’s massive financial services sector risks becoming a victim of post-Brexit wrangling over fish, Boris Johnson’s chief negotiator has been warned.

In a letter to David Frost, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson Christine Jardine warned that thousands of jobs are at risk if an agreement on “equivalence” is held up by the row over access to fishing waters around Jersey.

A French government source was last week quoted as saying that Paris will delay a financial services deal with Britain until Mr Johnson grants fair access to UK waters for European fishermen. The comment came after the UK sent Royal Navy gunboats to see off an attempted blockade of Jersey by angry French trawlermen.

An equivalence deal would allow firms in the City of London and other UK finance centres access to EU markets on the ground that both sides recognise one another’s regulatory frameworks as mutually acceptable.

But Ms Jardine said that a memorandum of understanding on the issue was yet to be ratified by EU member states and the sector risked becoming “the latest victim of Boris Johnson’s botched EU deal”.

Writing to Lord Frost she demanded urgent clarity on progress in the talks.

“The lack of financial services deal in the original agreement between the UK and EU is a source of great disappointment,” she said. “Now, with the sector being treated as a political football among the row over fishing rights, that disappointment has turned into a genuine threat to our recovery.

“The financial services sector is a critical part of our economy, accounting for more than a million well-paid jobs and over 7 per cent of our country’s GDP. Now, from Edinburgh to London, thousands of jobs are under threat as uncertainty about the sector’s future continues to undermine confidence.”

A UK government source responded:  “We’re taking a consistent, evidence-based approach to licensing EU vessels, using information supplied by the European Commission.

“This is another example of the EU issuing threats at any sign of difficulties, instead of using the mechanisms of our new treaty to solve problems.

“We’ve always been clear that an agreement on financial services is in the best interest of both sides.”

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