Politics

Fishing chiefs urge Boris to stand firm and not surrender UK waters

FISHING industry chiefs have urged Boris Johnson not to give away British fishing waters during the post-Brexit trade talks with the European Union.

Leading figures from the industry said the Prime Minister must free the country from the European Unions Common Fisheries Policy. Amid suggestions that British negotiators could offer the bloc a number of concessions in a bid to break the deadlock, The Scottish Fishermens Federation called on officials to stand strong. Elspeth Macdonald, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermens Federation: “There must be no concessions and access to fishing waters, other than those granted through annual negotiations, as an independent coastal state.”

Brussels sources have claimed David Frost, the Prime Ministers chief negotiator, could give way to give the impression the trade talks are not failing.

But Ms Macdonald insisted Downing Street should press on with its plans to make Britain an independent coastal state by the end of the year.

She said: “It’s absolutely key that we leave the Common Fisheries Policy at the end of this year. And there is no reason why that shouldn’t be the case.”

Meanwhile, the National Federation of Fishermens Organisations said British negotiators should press on despite the threat of French retaliation to what will be a drastically changed fisheries deal.

Its chief executive, Barrie Deas, said: “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 – theyve done it for much less in the past.”

He added: “We want to secure the UK’s future as an independent coastal state and all that follows from that in terms of fair quota shares, and the benefits for our coastal communities.”

In a bid to quash any speculation of a British capitulation on fisheries, Mr Johnsons official spokesman insisted the countrys negotiators would not cave to the EUs demands.

“This is wishful thinking by the EU. We have always been clear there is no question of splitting the difference on level-playing field or fish,” the spokesman said.

“We arent compromising on this because our position on this is fundamental to our status as an independent, sovereign country. Any agreement has to deal with this reality.”

He added: “We have set out what we are looking for.

“What we cant do is agree to any EU demands to give away on our rights as an independent state.”

British negotiators have so far resisted Brussels fisheries proposals, which they believe is a continuation of the Common Fisheries Policy, in the last three rounds of talks.

The UK is seeking a Norway-style agreement with annual negotiations on access and fishing rights divided using “zonal attachment”, based on where fish are found, rather than “historic patterns” favoured by the bloc.

But Mr Barnier, who has signalled a willingness to compromise, wants his counterpart to drop the demand in order to find a middle ground.

A UK Government 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 continues to push for one single overarching agreement.

“We are fully committed to agreeing fishing provisions in line with the Political Declaration, but the EU continues 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.”

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