Tue. Dec 6th, 2022


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EU admits fishing ‘real leverage’ for UK as clock ticks down on Brexit trade deal

3 min read

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The UK formally left the European Union back in January with the transition period set to end in December. But neither side has been able to come to any agreement on issues such as fishing and state aid.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s October deadline came and went and now both sides are meeting for last minute talks to desperately land a deal before the end of the transition period.

An EU diplomat said: “This is one of the very few questions where the British actually have leverage over the EU.”

While the Prime Minister has vowed not to back down on fishing rights to UK waters, European leaders have warned of the detrimental effect Brexit could have on their fishing industry.

French President Emmanuel Macron warned: “Under no circumstances should our fishermen be the victims of Brexit.”

Disputes over fishing rights came after the EU demanded they maintain its rights to Britain’s fishing waters.

Under the controversial Commons Fisheries Policy (CFP), all member states are given access to EU waters via quotas.

As the UK has a large coastal area, critics have often argued the system is unfair.

International law states Britain is not required to allow foreign fishing boats access to its waters.

British fishing grounds extend up to 200 nautical miles into the North Atlantic as well as including areas of the North Sea with the most fish.

EU fishing vessels will only have rights if the UK reissued them after Brexit.

Chairman of the German Deep Sea Fisheries Association, Uwe Richter, warned a no deal Brexit could have drastic consequences for German fishermen.

He said: “If the fisheries agreement is not ratified by the end of 2020, we will no longer be allowed to sail into British waters.”

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Mr Richter also said around 40,000 tonnes of North Sea herring – which is processed by the Euro-Baltic fish company – could be lost.

While the UK will be able to catch a lot of fish over next year, it will be difficult to sell as more than three quarters of all fish exports currently go to the eu.

Large tariffs on British catch could hit the domestic fishing industry hard.

Back in June, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said: “The EU wants to maintain the status quo, Great Britain wants to change everything.”

According to reports at the time, Mr Barnier told other diplomats a compromise would have to wait until other parts of the trade deal were finalised.

A senior EU diplomatic source said: “To dilute the influence of France and the other coastal states, Barnier needs to have the whole trade deal, which stands of falls on fishing.”

A UK government source added: “There have been signals that this is an area where Mr Barnier wants to move, but as yet there are no firm proposals on the table.”

Barrie Deas, CEO of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisation, said the EU knows not having a deal means “problems on fishing rights” will happen very soon.

He told Express.co.uk: “If you look at it in terms of fishing rights, then if there is no deal we go into annual negotiations with the EU for a standalone arrangement for 2021.

“Exactly the same issues arise there. Without an annual agreement there will be no access to UK waters and the issue of quota shares will appear again.

“So the EU knows not having a deal means problems on fishing rights very soon, from January 1.”

Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg

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