French fisherman demand "reprisals" if excluded from UK fishing grounds

In negotiations on a post-Brexit trade deal that will take effect after Britain’s January 31st exit from the European Union, Britain says EU vessels will no longer have automatic access to British waters.

But French fishermen, whose livelihoods depend on taking fish from UK waters, refuse to accept that, and are pressuring French President Emmanuel Macron to withhold any trade deal unless Britain lets EU trawlers fish its waters.

“Macron mustn’t give an inch to Britain,” said one captain based in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France’s busiest fishing port and a major European processing centre, as his crew unloaded 2 tonnes of squid, red mullet and whiting last week.

Like many of his compatriots he wants Macron to retaliate against any restrictions imposed by London with a ban on British-caught fish entering the EU.

It would be “very, very grave” if French boats were banned from British waters, French Farm Minister Didier Guillaume told Reuters. “There could be reprisal measures.”

Current rules allow EU boats to fish as close as six nautical miles to Britain’s coast, but once it leaves the bloc its exclusive economic zone will reach as far as 200 miles offshore.

If no new accord is reached, the French will not be allowed to fish beyond a line down the middle of the English Channel separating French and British territorial waters.

According to Barrie Deas, CEO of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations, who has expressed concerns over possible French blockades, France currently takes 84% of the quota for cod in the English Channel while the UK is allowed only 9%.

Regaining control of Britain’s waters has been prioritised by Boris Johnson, and has emerged as on of the electorate's priorities. The EU, however, wants to retain the status quo, with full access to what are the richest fishing waters in Europe.

The battle lines between Britain and France could, once again, be drawn at sea.

Read also:

French intransigence over access to UK fisheries threatens chances of trade deal compromise

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