While fishing alone has contributed only 0.03 per cent to the UK`s economic performance in 2019 alone, it is an emotional issue, as many Brexit supporters see it as a symbol of the newfound sovereignty that an exit from the EU should entail. In combination with fish and shellfish processing, the sector accounts for 0.1% of the UK`s GDP. However, EU sources insist that the reports are “far away” and that fishing remains a very open topic during this week`s talks in Brussels. France, whose fishing fleet is particularly hard hit, has adopted the hardest line on the Side of the European Union, while other nations are more inclined to compromise to reach a broader trade agreement. Disputes over fishing have already intensified: during the “Cod Wars” from 1958 to 1976, Icelandic fishermen shot at British trawlers and cut their nets, and Royal Navy escort ships collided with Icelandic coastguard vessels. In August 2018, French fishermen threw petrol bombs and stones at British boats off Normandy as part of an ongoing dispute over scallops. According to reports, the United Kingdom is tripling the size of its Fishing Protection Wing, a division of the Royal Navy that monitors the country`s fish stocks. Nor would the sanctions be unprecedented. In 2013, the EU closed its ports to fishing vessels in the Faroe Islands – a tiny Archipelago in the North Atlantic – due to overfishing. “It`s not just a word, it has practical consequences. This includes controlling our borders; Opting for a robust and principled subsidy control system; and control of our fishing waters. The UK insists on annual discussions on fishing rights that the EU has so far opposed.
EU officials responded to the Telegraph`s claims that Brussels negotiators admitted, following a long-standing request from the UK, that future fishing opportunities should be calculated on the basis of zonal seizure. “We want to reach an agreement on this basis, which will allow a fresh start to our relations with the EU, which we have always wanted.” The question is who has the right to capture what and in what waters when the transitional Brexit period ends on 31 December. Member States` boats end up about eight times as many fish in British waters as British fishing crews in EU waters, but the UK depends on the European export market. The fishing industry is one of the areas in which Britain has the advantage, at least on paper, in Brexit trade negotiations. Without an agreement, Britain would regain control of its waters and could banish continental fleets. Like Weymouth, many fishing communities voted for Brexit in 2016 and are represented by Conservative MPs “who don`t want to give in on the issue of fisheries,” said Christopher Huggins, a senior lecturer in politics at the University of Suffolk and lead author of the Brexit and fisheries report. “The government can`t ignore all of this easily.” Similarly, the fishing industries of Denmark, the Netherlands and France want the EU to fight tooth and nail to protect their access to the UK.