Most EU nations have depended on the UK waters to boost their fishing businesses. But as the UK insist on taking absolute control over its fishing areas after Brexit, French fishermen are disturbed.
UK officials have claimed that the EU’s approach to the trade negotiations has been the major reasons why talks stalled. Brexit trade deal negotiations have been on the hold for a while now over two key issues – fisheries and regulatory alignment.
The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is working on fulfiling a Leave campaign promise that the UK will take back control of its waters post-Brexit. Before Brexit, EU vessels had free access to British fishing grounds, leaving many fishermen in the UK aggrieved.
Michel Barnier, who’s the EU’s chief negotiator has warned Mr Johnson that the UK cannot secure access to European markets if access is not granted to EU Into UK waters. It appears that insisting on having access to the UK waters could lead to no deal at all.
French fishermen have been in fear as one admitted he was “very scared” at the prospect of talks between Brussels and London ending with no deal at all.
Jerome Vicquelin, a fisherman from the Normandy coast, hinted during an interview with Al Jazeera that he hopes an arrangement can be made, as his business like many others in Europe needs UK waters to survive.
“We are scared because UK waters represent 40-60 per cent of our revenue. So for us, it would be catastrophic, it would be unimaginable. The UK exports nearly 70 per cent of its fish to the EU.
“If we get to December 31 and they throw us out of their waters, then we will block our ports, stop the ferries, no British boats will reach French soil,” he said.
French and British fishermen have clashed before, in August 2018 in the English Channel when French fishing boats tried to prevent several British fishing vessels from catching sea scallops off the Normandy coast.
It quickly descended into violence when three British trawlers were chased by French boats, hit by stones and rammed by their counterparts.
On top of this, petrol bombs and rocket flares were thrown as the British boats fled the area to find shelter. The relentless attacks from French fishermen came despite UK vessels being permitted to fish in the Bay of Seine area.
Before the UK left the bloc on January 31, EU member states were permitted to dip into Britain’s marine wealth under the Common Fisheries Policy, angering many fishermen north of the English Channel.
France is one of many nations that depends on the rich British fishing grounds. It’s on record that between 2012-2016, France caught 120,000 tonnes of fish worth £171million, according to Marine Management Organisation figures.
In February, French President Emmanuel Macron promised he would “fight” for his country’s fishermen during Brexit trade talks: “I want to tell our fishermen that I will fight for them. If we do not get the same access as today, we will seek compensation. I will not let our fishermen pay for a British vote they could do nothing about,” he said.