The EU is wary that the UK will not give up access to its fisheries ahead of the anticipated trade talks that are set to start in February. Britain’s fisheries are the UK’s biggest advantage in its trade talks with the EU, according to the University of Liverpool’s Professor Jon Tonge. This comes as Brussels comes under pressure from its own European fishermen to sort out a deal as quick as possible, amid growing uncertainty among European fleets.
Professor Tonge told RT: “The big card the UK has is in terms of fisheries and access to our coastal waters.
“Javid is sending out different messages to different people. He is trying to send out warning shots to the EU, telling them not to expect us to stay aligned.
“To businesses, he is saying to get ready for a lack of regulatory alignment, and to the US, he is saying, we are open for businesses so let’s get a big trade deal on.”
It has recently revealed that a delegation of French fishermen met with the EU’s Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius on Monday amid growing uncertainty over their future.
According to Olivier Le Nezet, president of Brittany’s Regional Committee for Maritime Fisheries and Marine Farming in Brittany, roughly 60 percent of the fish species caught in the UK waters are fished by European fleets.
Around 33 percent of the catches of the European fishing fleet are caught in what will soon be claimed as British waters.
Following his meeting with the EU official, the fishermen said that the EU executive should ensure an agreement with the UK to get access to their territorial waters, otherwise they might seek some kind of retaliation.
Mr Le Nezet said: “It is clear that Brexit is a problem, as Brittany is the closest region to the UK.”
The EU is scrambling for a way to force Boris Johnson’s hand on the issue, as revealed in European Commission slides this week.
Slides published by the European Commission on Tuesday revealed the intention is to build what some sources have described as a “punishment clause” into a future deal.
This would give the EU power to “react quickly to disruption” against the UK should the country lower its standards.
The slides also confirmed that the “socioeconomic interests of its fishing communities” are the centre of its post-Brexit negotiating strategy.
The officials told diplomats that the fisheries negotiation would be done “within the context of the overall economic partnership, including a direct link with negotiations on trade in goods”.
At last October’s European summit, the European Commission’s Brexit negotiators, Michel Barnier, said the EU would prioritise a fisheries agreement during the future relationship talks.
He also pointed out that the EU wanted access for European fishermen to fish in British waters, as well as access for British processed products to the EU market.