EU Holds Trade Deal Ransom for Access to UK Fishing Waters

NORTH ATLANTIC OCEAN - MARCH 3: A Scottish trawler man aboard the trawler, Carina, holds out a haddock, part of the catch caught some 70 miles off the North coast of Scotland, in The North Atlantic on March 5, 2004. Fishing boats operating out of the UK are constantly fighting …
Chris Furlong/Getty Images

The EU’s chief negotiator on a UK trade agreement, Michel Barnier, has said there will be no trade deal without continued EU access to British territorial fishing waters.

On the day that Prime Minister Boris Johnson lays out his plans for a Canada-style free trade agreement, Mr Barnier has said that the UK must cross one of its own red lines by linking a deal to access to fishing waters.

Mr Barnier told France Inter radio in comments reported by the Associated Press that “there will be no trade deal with the British if there is no reciprocal access deal for our fishermen”.

He continued that “we will negotiate access to the British territorial waters for European fishermen at the same time that we negotiate access to European markets for British fisheries products. I hope I make myself clear.”

European politicians had recently suggested that EU access to Britain’s lucrative fishing waters could be linked to a trade deal, specifically to continued access of the City of London to the EU’s financial markets.

On Friday, the day the UK left the EU, Brexit minister Michael Gove has said that Britain will not trade access to her fishing waters in exchange for access to EU financial markets — but did not rule out selling access to fishing waters to EU countries.

Mr Gove had responded with a blunt “no” when asked on Sky News whether fishing access rights would be traded for a financial market deal. However, the minister had said on Friday: “If people want to fish in our waters, we will decide. My own view is we can have a friendly relationship with other countries, we can regulate their access to our waters in a way that will work for everyone, but we’re in control.”

Veteran leave campaigner Nigel Farage has warned that the Johnson administration’s approach to reviving British fishing communities — which had been decimated for decades by foreign fishing — was the “acid test” of whether the UK had truly taken back control after leaving the political bloc.

“Perhaps in many ways, fisheries is the acid test of Brexit,” Mr Farage told the Associated Press last week.

“The greatness of Britain has always been what we’ve done on the seas, whether it’s through the Royal Navy or through our merchant fleets,” Mr Farage said, continuing: “So fisheries is actually — symbolically — very, very important.”

Stating the obvious benefits of British-controlled waters, Mr Farage added: “If we get fisheries right, we will bring tens of thousands of jobs back to our coastal communities.”

Currently, the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy means that British fishermen land less than one-third — 32 per cent — of fish caught in British waters, while EU boats take just under half (43 per cent), with the Norwegians, whose country is not part of the EU, catching 21 per cent.

Brexit campaign group Fishing For Leave branded the demands “outrageous” and an “exploitation”, demanding the government must “not roll over the current access and quotas” and only grant a “limited annual deal and only when the UK receives a reciprocal value of fishing opportunities”.

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