Brussels has made any future free trade deal with the UK dependent on the EU retaining access to British waters. Over the weekend reports emerged that French President Emmanuel Macron is insisting that the UK government must grant a 25-year period of access to European fishing fleets to secure any trade deal. While most other EU countries regard this as unrealistic, many are demanding a ten-year licence to fish in UK waters.
A diplomatic source told the Daily Telegraph: “We need certainty and we can’t have this row on fish come around every year, or every five years, and we need a deal.”
However, Mr Johnson is only willing to grant a year’s access, which will be renewed on a yearly basis.
The Chief Operating Executive of the NFFO, Barrie Deas, urged Mr Johnson not to cave in to EU demands and argued that annual agreements were the best way to ensuring a fair deal for all, pointing to the present annual arrangement between Norway and the EU as an example .
In an exclusive interview with the Express.co.uk, he said: “The time period for any UK/EU fisheries agreement is absolutely critical and the relevant reference point is the current EU relationship with Norway, which is of course a third country outside the EU.
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“The annual fisheries agreement with Norway covers total allowable catches, quota shares, access arrangements as well as quota exchanges of unutilised quotas.
“Quota shares are based on zonal attachment, which is an assessment of the fish resources in each zone.
“It is a balanced agreement, in that each party benefits more or less equally.”
Mr Deas described the existing UK-EU deal as anything but balanced, particularly when it comes to the quotas on Channel cod catches.
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He explained that as things stand, British fishermen have a nine percent share of this stock, whereas their French counterparts have a share of 84 percent.
The same discrimination towards UK trawlermen applied to Celtic Sea haddock, where the UK share is just ten percent, in contrast to the 66 percent enjoyed by EU fishing fleets.
Mr Deas said “It is no surprise that the EU want to maintain this asymmetric and exploitative arrangement.”
European fishing fleets fish six times as much in British waters than British trawlermen do in European maritime territories, giving the UK a very strong hand in upcoming trade negotiations, according to Mr Deas.
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However, he warned the Prime Minister that he must not compromise on the time frame of any future access deal, if Britain is to maintain the upper hand in the forthcoming talks.
The NFFO’s CEO said: “This gives the UK considerable leverage, but that leverage would be thrown away if the UK agreed to anything other than annual agreements, on the current EU/Norway model.”
He added: “The EU insist that a free trade agreement will be contingent on the UK caving-in on fisheries.
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“But both parties need and benefit from a free trade agreement and I do not believe that this government intends to sacrifice fishing in the way it was in 1970.
“The fishing issue is in many ways emblematic or totemic of Brexit.
“It is therefore a very high political priority.”
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On Monday, Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar sought to put more pressure on Boris Johnson, by insisting the UK government would have to make concessions on fishing, if it wanted to ensure access to European markets for its banks.
In an interview with the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg, he said: “If financial services and entertainment, audio visual, are cut off from the single market, the European market, that will be a very severe blow to the British economy and the south east, in particular in London.
“So, you know, you may have to make concessions in areas like fishing in order to get concessions from us in areas like financial services, and that’s why things tend to be all in the one package”.