Matthew Taylor

Sunday shows round-up: Brexit deal could fall down over fishing

Sunday shows round-up: Brexit deal could fall down over fishing
Ireland's Foreign Minister Simon Coveney on Sky News's Sophy Ridge on Sunday
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Simon Coveney - Internal Market Bill could mean no trade deal

Ireland's Foreign Minister Simon Coveney returned to Sophy Ridge's show this week to make clear his objections to the government's Internal Market Bill. The bill, which famously threatened to break the EU Withdrawal Agreement in 'a specific and limited way', has recently been watered down by the House of Lords. However, it is expected that the government will reinsert the offending clauses, which would keep Northern Ireland's market aligned with Britain in the event of no trade deal. Coveney warned that this move could derail the prospective trade deal altogether:

SC: If the British government is determined to continue with their Internal Market Bill... then I think this is a deal that won't be ratified by the EU. Because there's no way the EU will agree to ratify a new agreement if the British government is breaking the existing agreement that's not even 12 months old and breaking international law by doing that.

'We won't get a deal' without fish

Coveney also emphasised the importance of reaching an agreement on fishing as part of the whole package. With many EU countries currently enjoying access to the UK's territorial waters, it is a strong card for Lord David Frost's negotiating team to play. However, Coveney told Ridge that the EU would not be bounced into an unsatisfactory outcome:

SR: The deal could fall down on fishing..?

SC: It could... I certainly hope that won't be the case. It'll be extraordinary if it does, but I think that is possible... Let me be clear - without a deal on fish, we won't get a deal.

George Eustice - We will continue with Internal Market Bill as planned

The Environment Secretary George Eustice joined Ridge straight after Coveney. Eustice announced that the government would indeed be putting the controversial clauses back into the Internal Market Bill, and he defended them as perfectly in line with the spirit - if not the letter - of the Withdrawal Agreement:

GE: We will be putting those measures back because they are very important. They just really bring clarity to mechanisms that are already in the Withdrawal Agreement... [We can] act unilaterally when we need to in order to protect the economy of Northern Ireland [and] there is a commitment to good faith.

UK could be only country not to 'control its own waters'

Ridge challenged Eustice over the principle that a deal on fishing could bring down the entire EU trade deal, especially when the industry is a relatively minor part of the UK's overall GDP. Eustice said it remained a crucial sticking point, and that there were symbolic reasons as well as economic ones to consider:

GE: It's very important to coastal communities up and down the country, and it is the case that British fishing was damaged by our entry into the European Union... Would it be right for the UK...to be the only country in the world that doesn't control its own waters? I think [that's] an important principle here as well.

Cummings' departure won't affect negotiations

One of this week's major political stories has been the dramatic walk out by the Prime Minister's closest special adviser Dominic Cummings. Cummings has been an important driving force in the Brexit saga, from his role in the Vote Leave campaign to the strategy behind the 2019 election victory. Ridge asked if his exit signified a less hostile approach to the trade talks could be on the cards:

GE: The negotiations have been led by David Frost from the beginning. He's got a very talented, experienced team of technical experts around him....So I don't actually think that the departure of Dominic Cummings makes any particular impact.

35% tariff won't hurt British dairy farmers

Andrew Marr asked Eustice about the effects of tariffs on the UK economy if the UK does not reach an agreement with the EU and begins to trade on World Trade Organisation terms. Eustice argued that, because the UK was a net importer of most agricultural goods, demand for British produce should increase after the UK announced its retaliatory tariffs:

GE: We don't think there will be an effect on dairy farmers...because we'll be applying tariffs as well on imported EU goods...Companies like Arla... would have to relocate [their] production to the UK...It is open to us to apply tariffs...to ensure that we make space in our market for British producers.

Professor Uğur Şahin - Vaccine could reduce Covid transmission by 50%

Marr also spoke to the founder of BioNTech, the German company which, alongside Pfizer, is responsible for developing the first Covid-19 vaccine to pass interim clinical trials. Professor Şahin told him that he had high hopes for his breakthrough:

US: I would expect that high efficacy in preventing disease translates into at least some efficacy in preventing infection. So I'm very confident that transmission in people will be reduced... maybe not by 90%, but maybe 50%... That could result in a dramatic reduction of the pandemic spread.

Gordon Brown - Indyref during pandemic 'not the right time at all'

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown criticised Nicola Sturgeon for saying that another independence referendum could happen as early as 2021 if the party wins the Scottish parliament elections:

GB: We're in the middle of a virus, we're in the middle of a recession...There has got to be a time to heal before you go into any divisive, conflicting referendum...I think most Scottish people will make up their mind that...you've got to heal the virus, you've got to heal the recession...I don't think this is the right time at all.

Jonathan Ashworth - Social media spreading 'poison' about Covid vaccine

The Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth spoke to Ridge about Labour's proposals for legislation to try and quash conspiracy theories about the latest vaccine developments.

JA: Sadly, if you go on social media today, you can find poison, garbage that is spread... It is important that social media platforms take some responsibility...We will work with [the government] on a cross party basis to get [this] legislation on the statute book, because the last thing we want to see is vaccine levels drop.

This clip 'will go viral no doubt'

And finally, while talking about a very different viral experience altogether, Ashworth suffered a prop malfunction that may propel him to another level of internet fame:

JA: Excuse me... The umbrella's gone... This is going to be one of those clips that goes viral no doubt!