EU fishermen demand SAME access to UK waters in Brexit deal as system ‘working well’

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Britain will officially resume talks on a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU on Tuesday, as the two sides attempt to thrash out an agreement by the end of the year. But the two sides are still at loggerheads over a number of key areas, with fishing being a large area of contention. Today, European fishermen demanded their boats have the same access to UK fishing waters as they currently do – something Brexiteers want to severely restrict.

Gerard van Balsfoort, Chairman of the European Fisheries Alliance, has told Michel Barnier to insist fishing rights remain the same after the conclusion of the Brexit transition period this year.

The EU’s chief negotiator was told losing access to the waters could be disastrous for many EU states.

Mr van Balsfoort told the Telegraph: “Loss of access to fishing grounds, to markets for fish or the return of overfishing will ultimately harm all of us.

“Michel Barnier knows this.

“Upsetting this balance will have serious consequences for all fishermen, European but also British.

“That is why maintaining mutual access to fishing grounds and the current shares of fishing rights is in everybody’s interest.”

European fishermen are largely dependent on working from British waters.

As a result, Brussels wants fishing rights and shares to continue as is – with both sides continuing to operate under the EU’s controversial Common Fisheries Policy.

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But the UK Government is keen to avoid such a scenario and instead wants annual negotiations to take place based on the principle zonal attachment – which means shares are agreed based on the percentage of fish inside each zone.

Such an approach is believed to be fairer and more scientific.

The zonal approach is already used by the EU in its annual quota-setting talks with Norway.

Britain has long criticised the EU’s rules on fishing, which means EU-based fleets secure about eight times as much fish in UK waters as British fishermen do in EU waters, according to UK Government data.

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Mr Balsfoort recognises the existing system has its flaws, but argues it works well.

He said: “The current system may be imperfect but it is the result of a difficult compromise between all involved countries, fishermen and the need for sustainable fish stocks.

“As almost all catches in the North East Atlantic are taken under sustainable conditions the fisheries management is working well.”

The UK argues the new agreement will be better for the environment.

Regaining control of British fishing waters has been seen as central to the Brexit cause and played a big part in the 2016 Brexit campaign.

Boris Johnson repeated the goal of securing greater British control of fishing waters ahead of the 2019 election campaign – recognising its importance among the electorate.

It comes after Mr Barnier met with the UK’s chief negotiator David Frost for dinner this evening, ahead of a day of discussions tomorrow.

The topic of fishing rights is set to come up.

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