The EU is only ready to accept minor changes to the opportunities for British fishermen in a move that could possibly scupper Brexit trade deal talks as Michel Barnier has refused to consider the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s proposals because they hand UK boats a sizable boost.
Mr Barnier has complained this could put a third of the bloc’s fishing fleet out of business, meanwhile, Prime Minister’s Brexit lead negotiator David Frost outlined plans that would double the amount British fishermen can catch in the UK’s coastal waters.
Although, the plans have been described as “unrealistic” by top European policymakers, who have to urge Mr Barnier to stand firm on the bloc’s fisheries request, while Tory MPs also urged the Prime Minister’s negotiator to hold a firm line against Brussels demand.
“For too long EU fishing boats have been able to catch more fish in our waters than our own fishing fleet. Brexit and the Fisheries Bill which began its passage through the commons this week provides the opportunity to take back control of our waters and give our fishermen a much fairer share of quotas.
“This will benefit our fishermen, the communities they are a part of and the wider fishing industry. I am delighted that the government had held firm in the negotiations and kept faith with our fishermen,” Steve Double said.
Germany yesterday insisted the UK should sign up to “at least the status quo”, with its Agriculture Minister Julia Klockner saying the bloc would have to start preparing for European boats being locked out of British waters after the end of the post-Brexit transition period.
Klockner also told the EU Parliament that if the UK wanted access to the single market, they must surrender access to Britain’s waters.
French MEP Pierre Karleskind, who chairs the institution’s fisheries committee, said: “We just want an agreement in which we do not from one day to another destroy one-third of the EU fishing fleet.”
The row over fisheries is likely to escalate when the two sides hold a round of trade talks in London next week. No.10 accused the EU of disregarding the UK’s status as an independent coastal state in the wrangling over the future relationship.
Mr Johnson’s spokesman said, “The EU refused to engage with our proposals and the document we’ve brought to the table, insisting that we must accept continuity with EU fisheries policy and disregarding the UK’s status as an independent coastal state.
“We need more realism from the EU on the scale of the change that results from our leaving.”
The Government is seeking to use scientific methods – known as “zonal attachment” – to set new quota shares after the transition period, while Brussels is demanding the pact based on “relative stability” from its Common Fisheries Policy, which Britain joined in 1973, to establish the quota shares.
The current terms have left Britain’s coastal communities on the edge of ruin as European boats prosper from access to the country’s waters. In the UK’s Celtic Sea waters, UK vessels are allowed to catch just 10 per cent of the haddock quota, and French fishermen net 66 per cent.
In the Channel, European boats take 91 per cent of cod. And, in the North Sea, British boats are allowed to catch only four per cent of the sole.
EU fishing states, such as France, Ireland and Denmark, have ordered Mr Barnier to stand strong in the battle over access to Britain waters – even if it does increase the risk of a no-deal Brexit.
Of the UK’s position, an EU source said: “There is no way the EU can agree to this maximalist demand. Absolutely no way. Barnier cannot budge while this stays on the table. He would be crucified.”