Industry leaders have warned that UK and EU fishermen could “come to blows at sea” if London and Brussels fail to agree terms on fishing.

Fishermen clash


Concerns have been raised that if EU fishermen are excluded from UK waters there can be retribution in the form of blockades at vents to stop the import of Scottish shellfish.

Food exports to Europe — mostly fish and sea food — are worth around £1.1 billion to the Scottish economy annually.

Jeremy Percy, director of the New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association which represents the UK’s small fishing vessels, told a House of Lords committee that any change to the seamless export of fish could end in”unmitigated disaster”.

Mr Percy, who appeared along with other industry leaders, warned that if both sides failed to find the balance right in negotiations fishermen could”take the law into their own hands”.

Boris Johnson
Mr Johnson has said the UK should be treated with whom the EU holds annual negotiations on fish, while Mr Barnier has demanded a continuation of mutual access.

Jeremy Percy, New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association
Mr Percy added:”I really do worry with powerful feelings and emotions running high it would come as no surprise whatsoever if EU and UK boats came to blows at sea. I certainly hope they do not.

French attacking British trawlers…

“I really do think the somewhat aggressive comments by the French agriculture ministry, which they’re going to keep fishing in our waters, would have been taken to heart by their fleet and I think that represents a particular threat.”

Britain has been quietly increasing its maritime defences in an effort to prevent a repeat of the”cod wars” of the 1970s, but Mr Percy told the committee it wasn’t enough.

European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier
“I’m not filled with confidence that we can effectively police our seas. It may well be that UK fishermen feel it necessary to act unilaterally if there are blatant incursions by EU vessels in the absence of an agreement and or protection vessels.”

In response, Mr Percy said EU fishermen, who property more than 700,000 tonnes of UK fish and shellfish every year, could end up taking”the law into their own hands”.

Elspeth Macdonald was pessimistic, however. We wish to be an independent coastal state in control of the resources in our waters, having friendly annual negotiations with our neighbours…

Fisheries Minister George Eustice
She told the committee that the UK’s ability to control access to its waters as an independent coastal state was the”ace in the pack” that would ultimately facilitate a fishing deal.

In a different discussion in Westminster hall on Wednesday Fisheries Minister George Eustice echoed that exact same point.

He said:”We’re very clear that we want to be like Norway. We want to be an independent coastal country in charge of the resources in our oceans, having friendly yearly discussions with our neighbours, having a mutual exchange of access and an annual discussion on the total allowable catch and that should have what share of the catch species .”

The Government’s approach is to”move away from the outdated, unfair and unscientific comparative stability sharing mechanism that currently pertains from the EU into a modern, more scientific approach based on zonal attachment”.

He added:”In those annual negotiations we will also seek a mutual agreement on exchange of access, deciding what species which should be, what areas that should be and what sharing agreements should be attached to any mutual accessibility consented. We are making very good progress in preparing for this new world.”


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