Despite the threat of disruption, they urged David Frost, the UK’s chief negotiator, to push on with plans to become an independent coastal state by the end of the year. British negotiators have rebuffed the European Union’s fisheries proposals as a continuation of the status quo. Mr Frost has instead called for fishing rights to use the principle of “zonal attachment”, based on where fish are found, rather than “historic patterns” used in the bloc’s Common Fisheries Policy.
The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations has claimed this could spark a backlash from French trawlers who profit from easy access to the UK’s fishing grounds.
It said France benefits from 84 percent of the cod in the English Channel and the UK just nine percent.
In the Celtic Sea, France has a 66 percent quota compared to the UK’s 10 percent, the organisation’s chief executive added.
NFFO chief Barrie Deas said a furious response from French boats was just “nature of the beast” they are dealing with, but insisted it was no reason for Mr Frost to concede in the battle over access to the UK’s territorial waters.
French fishermen expected to lash out at Brexit deal after losing access to UK waters
French President Emmanuel Macron
Mr Deas added “Given there is a line down the middle of the Channel, you could expect zonal attachment to be something a little bit more equal.
“If there is any change to those quota shares or any other aspect that affects French fishermen, as day follows night there will be blockades – they’ve done it for much less in the past.”
In 2018, French skippers targeted British boats in violent clashes during the so-called scallop wars over disputed fishing grounds off the Normandy coast.
President Emmanuel Macron has previously warned other EU leaders failing to secure a good deal for European fishermen could trigger civil unrest across France.
French fishermen are set to lose huge amounts of easy access to UK waters
He claimed it could involve cross-Channel blockades to prevent British goods from entering the port of Calais.
The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation said refusing the EU’s demands to uphold the same level of access for European boats to British waters would hand “significantly higher” returns to UK trawlers.
Elspeth MacDonald, its chief executive, said: “We’ve been clear from the outset that what we want is a new system of quota sharing based on zonal attachment, based on where fish are actually found and not on the historical practices of many years ago.
“If you look at the 12 or 13 key commercial species for the Scottish fishing industry and all of these, a quota sharing arrangement based on zonal attachment would bring a significantly higher quota share for the UK.”
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In an attempt to break the deadlock, Mr Frost and Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, have resumed Brexit talks.
Mr Barnier expects Britain to hint towards a fisheries compromise that could allow the bloc to move away from its own “maximalist” position.
The Frenchman has signalled he is willing to offer his own concessions on access to Britain’s waters if Mr Frost moves towards a middle ground.
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EU negotiators could agree to a Norway-style fisheries treaty, with annual negotiations on quota shares and access, if Britain moves away from its demand for “zonal attachment”.
A UK spokesman said: “On fisheries, the Political Declaration clearly sets out that a separate agreement should be in force in July, ahead of the other agreements, but the EU continue to push for one single overarching agreement.
“We are fully committed to agreeing fishing provisions in line with the Political Declaration, but the EU continue to insist on access to UK fishing waters in a way that is incompatible with our future status as an independent coastal state.
“Clearly we will not agree to arrangements that are unbalanced and against the interests of the UK fishing industry.”