British Fishermen to Double Catch If Boris Holds His Nerve in Brexit Talks

Britain's Prime Minister and Conservative leader Boris Johnson poses holding a fish with Conservative candidate for Great Grimsby Lia Nici (L) during a general election campagin visit to Grimsby Fish Market in Grimsby, northeast England, on December 9, 2019. - Britain will go to the polls on December 12, 2019 …
BEN STANSALL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has taken a stand in the deadlock over fishing rights with the European Union, demanding double Britain’s current catch.

Mr Johnson reportedly told Brussels that the United Kingdom would double its currently landing of fish in British waters from 25 to 50 per cent, with the rest expected to be negotiated annually with the bloc.

Britain officially left the EU at the end of January but remains in a transition period until 2021. If an agreement is not struck by the end of October, it will leave the EU’s institutions on December 31st and deal with the bloc on World Trade Organization (WTO) terms.

Returning fishing rights has become a red line for the British, with The Times reporting on Friday that the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has already rejected the offer. A spokesman for the prime minister said: “The EU have refused to engage with our proposals… insisting that we must accept continuity with EU fisheries policy and disregarding the UK’s status as an independent coastal state.”

“Barnier cannot budge on anything while this stays on the table. He would be crucified,” a Brussels source told the newspaper. Countries like France catch the lion’s share of several species of fish in British waters, for example landing 84 per cent of British English Channel cod and two-thirds of British Irish Sea haddock.

The government’s negotiations document published in February said that any agreement with the EU should “set out the scope and process for annual negotiations on access to the
parties’ exclusive economic zones and fishing opportunities”.

The UK has rejected the current outdated mechanism, saying that “future fishing opportunities should be based on the principle of zonal attachment, which better reflects where the fish live”, a method by which the bloc’s current fisheries arrangement with non-EU nation Norway is already determined.

In response to the report, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said on Friday: “Boris has made a very generous fisheries offer, hopefully subject to annual changes. For 40 years, the EU fleet has been able to take advantage of us. If Barnier rejects this, then No Deal will be the only acceptable outcome.”

However, while Downing Street reportedly puts the chances of a deal at 30 to 40 per cent, Mr Farage thinks that it is more likely that an agreement will be struck than not.

He told Westmonster’s Michael Heaver on Thursday: “The financial market analysts tell us it’s 50-50. Some say it’s 55 per cent no deal, some say it’s 55 per cent there’ll be a deal. I would say it’s probably two-thirds/a third that there will be a deal. Because it’s the nature of governments to want to have a deal, it’s the nature of the EU to want to have some sort of deal, so I suspect that a deal will be done.”

While Mr Farage has criticised the government for its coronavirus response and its handling of the English Channel migrant crisis, he is confident that Johnson — who was elected on his promise to deliver a real Brexit — will strike a deal that will largely fulfil the result of the 2016 referendum. Otherwise, he is “finished”.

Mr Farage explained: “I suspect that [the deal will be] one I won’t be wholly pleased with, but I suspect that it’s one that won’t give too much daylight either. Otherwise, Boris is finished. He is finished. Not just finished as prime minister, but finished in the eyes of history. I do think the government know that, which is why I don’t expect them to completely collapse.”

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