‘It will be death!’ France warned Brexit failure to leave EU fishermen fighting for scraps

Brexit: Expert warns EU against 'breakdown' in fisheries talks

France has been spearheading efforts to push the UK Government into agreeing to let European Union vessels fish in British waters past the end of Brexit transition period. President Emmanuel Macron has warned he is ready to veto any potential agreement that does not protect the rights of his fishermen. But the leader of the Regional Fisheries Committee, Olivier Leprêtre has warned failure to reach a deal with Britain will be the “death” of the industry.

Speaking to French Prime Minister Jean Castex earlier this week, Mr Leprêtre said: “There must be a deal.

“If there is no deal, whether it’s regional fisheries or the local flotilla, it will be death for sure.”

The fishermen’s representative also warned French vessels would be left fighting with other European fishermen to catch the meagre resources available around France’s northern coast.

He added: “If we return to French waters, we will find ourselves with Belgians, Dutch, Spaniards.

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“There will be overexploitation of resources. We must not overexploit the resources.”

European boats have been able to fish in British waters with little limitations since the UK first joined the European Economic Community, the predecessor of the European Union, in 1973.

Access to foreign waters is currently regulated by the controversial Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) which British fishermen have long denounced as unfairly restrictive.

The UK has maintained the vote to quit the bloc in 2016 would allow fishing communities to reflourish once access to EU boats is reduced and the catch limit is reviewed.

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With the issue one of the most prominent obstacles to the UK and EU reaching a deal, Boris Johnson has also been warned failure to free the country of Brussels’ influence could be risky for his party.

Barrie Deas, the chair of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, said the future of fisheries will be an important test for the Prime Minister.

Mr Deas said: “Fishing is a litmus test for Brexit. We will know very soon, we will know this year, whether we’ve got a good deal on fishing or not.

“I think the Government would find it very difficult politically among its own supporters, never mind the kicking it would get in the press and from the fishing industry if it came back with a poor deal on fishing.”

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While fishing amounts to only 0.1 percent of Britain’s total GDP, the pleas of the fishing community have remained an important symbolic challenge for the Government.

Former Brexit Party MEP June Mummery, who has long campaigned for the rejuvenation of the fishing sector across the UK, insisted the country must gain full control of British waters back.

Ms Mummery said: “We are taking back full control of our waters and resources. Fishing shouldn’t even be in any deals.”

“That GDP is not a small 2 percent. That GDP is 100 percent to coastal communities and we need that back.”

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