June Mummery slams ‘diabolical’ fishing deal with EU
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Industry chiefs have warned of “ongoing tensions” and “toxic relations for decades to come” with European rivals over access to valuable seafood stocks in the Channel and the North Sea. And they say that unruly French trawlermen will continue to cause disruption around Jersey and Calais in the post-Brexit spat over access to our fishing grounds. Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, said: “I think France is where any frictions will arise, partly because its fishing industry has a tradition of militancy and securing political support by militancy.”
This includes the possibility of a new crab or scallop war as EU vessels do battle with their British counterparts for the lucrative catches.
His warning came after French fishermen threatened to blockade the Channel Tunnel in the scrap over access to Britain’s coastal waters.
Mr Deas said tensions were unlikely to cool until European skippers come to respect Britain’s hard-fought Brexit freedoms.
He called for a “new equilibrium” where the bloc’s trawlermen are limited in the fish they are allowed to plunder off our coast.
The NFFO boss stressed that the threat of violent scuffles would loom over Britain’s fishing industry while European vessels are granted superior access.
Under the Brexit deal, UK fishermen can only catch 12,000 tonnes of non-quota species in EU waters but the bloc’s boats can catch 42,000 tonnes in British waters.
The Channel and Celtic Sea are the EU waters with the most non-quota species, which include crabs, scallops and some valuable white fish.
Mr Deas added: “I think there will be ongoing frictions there.
“But ultimately, I think there’s a need to come to an agreement with the EU that recognises that the UK is an independent coastal state and things have changed.”
Britain and France are currently at loggerheads over a decision to reject three-quarters of applications to pillage UK waters.
The move has sparked a furious response from French fishermen, who have threatened to disrupt cross-Channel trade.
French MP Jean-Pierre Pont, for the coastal town of Boulogne-sur-Mer, fumed: “Be warned.
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“Since the British are refusing to honour what they signed, as with other Anglo-Saxons in another area, the French fishermen of Boulogne-sur-Mer may be obliged, after nine months of useless patience, to envisage ways to retaliate against the UK – for example by blocking ports or the entry of lorries towers the UK through the tunnel.”
Jane Sandell, CEO of UK Fisheries, warned tensions could still boil over to the point of a “conflict at sea”.
She added: “There’s always a danger that one element of the industry is going to fall out with their European counterparts and we just have to hope everyone stays safe because some of these encounters look very, very hairy.
“Having the Navy on hand is something that we haven’t seen since the Cod Wars with Iceland and God forbid we go back to that sort of tension because the industry is still recovering from that.”
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Meanwhile British fishermen have accused Boris Johnson of selling them out to secure his Brexit trade deal with Brussels.
A new report, drawn up by Gary Taylor, a former government fisheries negotiator, said the UK-EU pact will cost the industry £300 million by 2026.
Mr Deas said: “I think the litmus test is that this is a failure.
“As Gary’s analysis shows, we’re considerably worse off in 2021 than we were in 2020.”
Ms Sandell added: “We were the poster child for Brexit and ultimately we got sold out.”
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