Professor Alex de Ruyter – “Expect UK fishermen to be the first thrown if Johnson seriously wishes to pursue a trade deal with the EU.”


He will turn his attentions to exchange discussions with Brussels, which will start next month and needs a full post-Brexit deal in place by the close of the transition period in December 2020. But fishing has already emerged as arguably the largest stumbling block in upcoming negotiations.

The Prime Minister is pushing for a Canada-style deal before the end of the transition period in December – an agreement which took Canada and Brussels to agree on between 2009 and 2017.

Mr Johnson has insisted British fishing grounds are”first and foremost” for UK boats, but the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has said allowing European trawlers into British waters was”inextricably linked” into striking a trade agreement.

Professor Alex de Ruyter director of the Centre for Brexit Studies at Birmingham City University, warned:”The EU will insist on access to UK fishing waters in addition to level-playing discipline provisions and precursors to any trade arrangement.

“With over 70% of the united kingdom catch being exported to EU nations, the idea of excluding EU vessels does not seem like it will hold water.

Anticipate UK fishermen are the initial thrown overboard if Johnson seriously desires to pursue a trade deal with the EU
Professor Alex de Ruyter
“The likely result of failure would be tariffs on UK fishing exports that (unless the UK public find a vastly increased desire for langoustines and smoked salmon) would bring the fishing industry to its knees.

“Expect UK fishermen to be the first thrown if Johnson seriously wishes to pursue a trade deal with the EU.”

If the Prime Minister does sacrifice UK fishing ahead for a more equitable trade deal with the EU, other member states would still have access to UK waters.

However, Mr de Ruyter cautioned whilst British fishermen have continued to vent their fury in Brussels over their treatment, they should actually be looking closer to home for more definitive answers.

He said:”The current quota system which is regarded as the bugbear by sailors casts the EU as the protagonist for all the wrong reasons.

“Whilst the quota is agreed at the EU level, it is that the UK Government that decides how that quota is divided amongst fishermen, and bigger operators are disadvantaged by UK Government tendering practices that favor large commercial (including foreign) vessels.”

Professor de Ruyter additionally warned similarities shared between the UK and a lot of other major EU countries mean their respective Authorities will not”sell them down the estuary” or even”throw them overboard”.

He explained:”The problem of fishing in trade negotiations looks”totemic” to either side, despite the insignificant financial contribution the sector generates.

“The Dutch, French, Spanish and Danish for example have mystical customs equally strong to the UK, and they’ve fishermen who’ll have fished in UK waters for decades.

“Their Governments will not”sell them down the estuary” or”throw them overboard”.”

The UK Government has introduced legislation which it states ensures Britain will become an independent coastal state, stopping Europe’s Common Fisheries Policy and ending automatic accessibility for EU vessels to fish in British waters.

However, with future accessibility and quotas set to be negotiated with the EU, there are worries the fishing sector could lose out if it is employed as a bargaining chip.

Mr Johnson said:”There is not any need to get a free trade agreement to involve accepting EU rules on competition policies, subsidies, social protection, the environment or anything similar, any over the EU ought to be obliged to accept UK rules.

“The UK will keep the highest standards in these regions, better in several respects than those of the EU, without the compulsion of a treaty.”

He added that when a Canada-style agreement wasn’t possible, he’d walk away with no full trade deal – such as Australia’s relationship with the EU.

Mr Johnson said that while he was ready to consider a deal with Brussels on fisheries,”it must reflect how the UK will be an independent coastal state by the end of the calendar year, controlling our own waters”.

He continued:”Under this kind of agreement there would be yearly discussions with the EU, using the most recent scientific information, ensuring British fishing grounds are first and foremost for British ships.”

But Mr Barnier hit back:”It is clear the arrangement that we wish to have from the interests of UK fishermen and in the interests of European fishermen.

“I call that reciprocal access to our territorial waters and also our markets.

“That agreement on fisheries will be inextricably connected to the trade arrangement, as really will be… the agreement about the level playing field agreed with Boris Johnson.”


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