The EU and UK’s hopes of a deal were boosted after Prime Minister Boris Johnson ceded ground on regulatory divergence. The talks had been deadlocked for months over the issue, as Brussels looks to ensure fair competition post-Brexit. However, EU negotiator Michel Barnier warned that differences still remain over fisheries – an issue that has long threatened a no deal exit. A no deal Brexit could cause disruption for fishermen on both sides of the English Channel, but Dutch fishermen have previously expressed concern over the long term impacts of the UK’s departure.
Mr Johnson wants to see UK boats prioritised in British waters, meaning European vessels could be afforded less landing.
Dutch skipper Cor Vonk said in 2019 that “many will go bankrupt” in the Netherlands if access to UK waters is ended.
He said: “It’s really a disaster for the fishermen, as 50 percent of their turnover is caught in British waters. So for the Dutch fishermen it’s really a tragedy if the British waters are closed.
“We’re talking about 500 to 600 families left in the drink. Many fishermen will go bankrupt, and perhaps us too.”
European fishermen also fear clashes with one another if a no deal Brexit happens.
If UK waters are closed, Belgian, Dutch and French fishermen will have to share a fraction of the waters.
Mr Vonk added: “Where you get overfishing, you get displacement. So you get fewer fish imports, you get fewer auctions, you get no work at auctions, no work in processing factories.
“That’s a domino effect, which is really disastrous.”
When ITV spoke to Dutch fishermen earlier this year, they echoed these fears.
Guido Betsema, a fisherman at the Dutch port of Den Helder said: “In a year we spend 80 percent of our time in English waters.
READ MORE: Brexit fishing: French refuse to back down: ‘UK will lose more’
Tobias Ellwood, Tory chairman of the Commons Defence Committee, called the threat “irresponsible” while former European commissioner Lord Patten accused the Prime Minister of behaving like an “English nationalist”.
Manfred Weber, a German MEP and leader of the European People’s Party in the European Parliament, revealed his fears that the two sides are on an increasingly dangerous path.
He said: “The world is full of enemies of the European way of life, our freedoms and our values. We should fight these enemies together instead of each other.”
Meanwhile, the French Government responded with “Keep calm and carry on” – using the famous British war time slogan.