Fishing chief demands Brussels respect ‘law of sea’ as no deal Brexit to spark chaos in EU

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The warning comes from Barrie Deas, Chief Executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, who told BBC Radio 4’s Today he believed there is a “long way to go” on the EU side on post-Brexit fishing. The UK wants “zonal attachment” to agree a total allowable catch for the United Kingdom’s waters – a step that would give it a much larger quota share than if the fish maths were worked out on the EU’s proposals.

Mr Deas explained: “The overall numbers are complex. Behind each quota are fishing vessels, fishing businesses, fishing communities.

“For example, on English Channel cod the UK share is 9 percent, the French share is 84 percent.

“Now we need to move a long, long way from those numbers to get somewhere that would be acceptable, consistent with the international norm and actually our legal right under UN law of the sea.”

He added: “We will be looking at each individual stock, what that means, how far it has been travelled, is that consistent with our legal rights.

“The broad brush figures are a little bit meaningless because there are around about 140 stocks involved.”

Confronted with the claim a no deal Brexit scenario would prevent British fishermen to sell to the UK’s “biggest market” in the EU, he said: “We will be able to sell our fish because we will have to trade under WTO rules, which will mean tariffs.

“So we won’t be trading under favourable terms but we will continue to trade.

“But on fishing rights, a no deal would simply mean that we go straight to annual negotiations for a deal for 2021.

“And in those circumstances, the EU faces exactly the same problems: access to UK waters and moving to quota shares to secure that.

“So my feeling is there will be a deal, I think it’s still closely balanced.

“There’s a long way to go on the EU side.”

With just over four weeks left until the United Kingdom finally exits the EU’s orbit on December 31, both sides are demanding concessions from the other on fishing, state aid and how to resolve any future disputes.

Britain formally left the EU on January 31 but has been in a transition period since then under which rules on trade, travel and business remain unchanged. From the start of 2021 it will be treated by Brussels as a third country.

The two sides are trying to strike a trade deal on goods that would safeguard nearly $1 trillion in annual trade and buttress peace in British-ruled Northern Ireland.

Talks between EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and British chief negotiator David Frost continued on Sunday. British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said it was a very significant week for Brexit.

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“David Frost had made clear that we’re continuing the negotiations because we still think there is a prospect that we can get an agreement and while there is we should persevere with those,” Eustice said.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said a deal could be done this week, but there needed to be give and take on both sides.

On fishing, Britain dug in its heels.

While fishing alone contributed just 0.03 percent of British economic output in 2019, it is an emotive subject as many Brexit supporters see it as a symbol of the regained sovereignty that leaving the EU should bring.

Combined with fish and shellfish processing, then the sector makes up 0.1 percent of UK GDP.

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