Brexit: UK Won’t ‘Trade Away Fishing’ for EU Deal Says Minister as French Threaten ‘Nasty Battle’

Fishing vessels are moored near the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle, northeast England on April 8, 2018, during a protest against the Brexit transition deal that would see Britain continue to adhere to the Common Fisheries Policy after formally leaving the EU, People working in the fishing industry supported by the …
SCOTT HEPPELL/AFP via Getty Images

International trade secretary Liz Truss has said that the UK will not “trade away” Britain’s fishing waters in exchange for a deal with the EU, the remarks coming after France’s Europe minister said that negotiations could collapse over fishing rights.

“We are not going to trade away our fishing in a deal with the EU or any other negotiating partner. We are going to get a deal with the EU that does not involve selling out our fishing,” Ms Truss told BBC Breakfast on Monday.

Under the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy, European fishermen have common access to British territorial waters. Since imposed in the 1970s, the rules resulted not only in a loss of revenue for the UK, but the livelihoods of British fishermen and decimating the country’s fishing culture in coastal towns.

French fishermen especially benefit from plundering British waters, with France’s Europe minister Amélie de Montchalin telling Andrew Marr on Sunday that the UK-EU trade deal could collapse over Europe’s demand for British fishing rights.

Ms de Montchalin affirmed that continued fishing rights were key, saying, “Yes. We said that there are four topics which are linked in negotiations,” reiterating Brussels’ red lines as free trade, fishing, governance of the deal, and the UK continuing to abide by EU anti-competition regulations.

“We know how to make it a very nasty battle,” she continued.

“Both sides” could make it “a very nasty battle where politicians in the UK, politicians in France, are put in a situation where things get very difficult”, she added.

The EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said that the deal could collapse unless the UK surrenders its waters to Europe, saying last month that the EU will only agree to a “partnership” that includes “a level playing field” and “in particular, fishing”.

Whitehall officials have also told ministers that there is a “very realistic chance” that unless the EU gets what it wants, French fishermen may blockade British cross-Channel trade, according to a Times report published on Monday.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said that the UK taking back control of her waters would be the “acid test” of a successful Brexit.

Mr Farage said in late January: “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… So fisheries is actually — symbolically — very, very important.”

“If we get fisheries right, we will bring tens of thousands of jobs back to our coastal communities,” he added.

 

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