By Dan O’Donoghue and Harriet Line, Press Association Political Staff
French President Emmanuel Macron was “speechless with rage” over agreements between the EU and UK on fishing post Brexit, Michael Gove has said.
The Environment Secretary told MPs that the Government’s deal on fisheries had caused “anger” in Paris as he reaffirmed the UK would be an independent coastal state after Brexit.
The French president said over the weekend that he would demand ongoing access to UK waters for French fishermen as the price of a future trade deal and the UK quitting the controversial backstop.
But Mr Gove told the Commons, in French, that Mr Macron was “wrong” – much to Speaker John Bercow’s amusement who said Mr Gove’s French was “stunning”.
The Environment Secretary, speaking in English, said: “The truth is that as an independent coastal state we will be able to decide who comes into our waters and on what terms.”
He added that Mr Macron, who he termed the “Jupiterian president”, was “speechless with rage on Sunday when he discovered that this withdrawal agreement and future political declaration would mean that France would not have access to our waters save on our terms”.
“His anger should be a cause for celebration across this House,” he added.
Tory former minister Sir Edward Leigh earlier called for more optimism from the Government over Brexit.
He asked: “Can the minister confirm that under a clean global free-trade Brexit, the United Kingdom will be able to protect farmers with tariffs – just like every other country – and provide more help for smaller farmers.
“And that can we have more optimism from the Government and less of project fear with gumboots on?”
Agriculture Minister George Eustice said he had always been “very optimistic” about the opportunities from Brexit, adding: “In a no-deal Brexit, the UK would be free to set its own trade policy unilaterally – the options open to us would be to create autonomous tariff rate quotas or tariff rate suspensions or indeed a lower bound tariff on those goods where we wish to do so, but we would have independent trade policy in a no deal Brexit.”
Labour former minister Helen Goodman said analysis had shown a no-deal could produce a “reduction in competitiveness of 35%”, while the Prime Minister’s deal could lead to a “reduction of 7%”.
She asked: “Could the minister confirm today that in terms of imports coming into the country, we will not allow unfair competition from countries which produce to lower standards?”
Defra Minister David Rutley replied: “Yes, I can confirm that.”
And the SNP’s environment spokeswoman Deidre Brock asked the Government to accept an amendment to the Agriculture Bill to “keep Frankenstein foods off the tables the length and breadth of these isles”.
Mr Rutley said he knew amendments to the Bill had been laid and said they would be “properly considered” at report stage.