Brexit talks are deadlocked once again as both Brussels and London refuse to budge on their respective demands. Fisheries has emerged as one of the bigger stumbling blocks, with the EU refusing to allow the UK access to European markets without access to British waters. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged that the UK will take sovereignty over its waters – meaning EU vessels could be cut off from Britain’s fishing grounds. France has warned Mr Johnson there will be “no new approach” coming from the EU as Brexit talks remain in limbo.
Clément Beaune, French European affairs minister, said: “It is up to them to tell us now, beyond tactics, if they want to continue negotiating.”
EU negotiator Michel Barnier said on Wednesday a deal was still “within reach” and stressed the bloc’s willingness to move to “legal texts” – one of No 10’s demands.
A no deal scenario, which looks increasingly likely, could lead to chaos in Europe’s waters.
Scottish Lib Dem MP, Alistair Carmichael, expressed fears of this last week.
He called for Scottish fishermen to be granted increased protection with amendments to a Fisheries Bill.
His warning came after an incident in June when a Shetland boat, the Alison Kay, was harassed by a Spanish vessel, the Pesorsa Dos, which attempted to cripple the Alison Kay’s propeller.
The Shetland Fishermen’s Association the Maritime and Coastguard Agency was unable to take action as it has no jurisdiction outside of the 12-mile limit.
Mr Carmichael said: “At the time of the incident the MCA shrugged their shoulders and said there was nothing they could do as it happened outside the twelve-mile limit.
“They are not wrong – that is the current state of the law. If we are serious about managing our fisheries then it is time to end these unsafe practices.
“We have to close this gap in safety at sea and my amendment is a starting point for that change.
“Sooner or later a boat is going to be sunk and lives will be lost. The coast guard or police should be given the powers to stop this unsafe behaviour.”
His warnings echo those made by the Government’s Yellowhammer report, published in September last year.
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It warned of clashes in the Channel and illegal fishing as the open waters between the UK and the EU are shut.
The report also said that 300 foreign boats would be fishing in British waters on day one of a no deal Brexit, threatening violent clashes at sea and chaos at ports.
Such scenes risked reviving hostilities of 2018 when French fishermen attacked British boats in the Channel in a scallops row.
The UK’s lucrative fishing grounds are crucial to many in the EU, and some fishermen in the bloc have also warned of clashes between European vessels after Brexit.
Jan Buisseret, commercial manager at Ostend auction in Belgium said: “It will mean that the whole fleet of Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Ireland will fish in the coast close to Europe.
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“But there is no room for everyone. If we have rights to fish in British areas, the Brits will have the rights to sell their products here in Europe because they do not have fleets, they do not have the same consumption of fish as we have.”
Stephane Pinto, fisherman and vice-president of the fisheries committee, said: “If tomorrow there is no deal Brexit, meaning a hard Brexit, all the flotillas of Europe, the Belgians, the Dutch, and the French will all be in the same fishing zone.
“And in terms of cohabitation that would be difficult. I think there would be a naval battle.”