Barnier will only accept ‘minor changes’ to fisheries – fears losing third of EU fleet

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Michel Barnier has refused to consider Boris Johnson’s proposals because they hand UK boats a sizable boost. The European Union’s chief negotiator has complained this could put a third of the bloc’s fishing fleet out of business. David Frost, the Prime Minister’s Brexit envoy, has tabled plans that would double of the size British fishermen can catch in the UK’s coastal waters.

But the plans have been branded “unrealistic” by influential European policymakers, who have ordered Mr Barnier to stand firm on the bloc’s fisheries demands.

Germany yesterday insisted the UK should sign up to “at least the status quo”.

Agriculture minister Julia Klockner said the bloc would have to start preparing for European boats being locked out of British waters after the end of the post-Brexit transition period.

She told the EU Parliament if Britain wanted access to the single market, Downing Street must surrender access to Britain’s waters.

French MEP Pierre Karleskind, who fairs the institution’s fisheries committee, said: ““We just want an agreement in which we do not from one day to another destroy one third of the EU fishing fleet.”

The row over fisheries is likely to escalate when the two sides hold a round of trade talks in London next week.

No.10 accused the EU of disregarding the UK’s status as an independent coastal state in the wrangling over the future relationship.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “The EU refused to engage with our proposals and the document we’ve brought to the table, insisting that we must accept continuity with EU fisheries policy and disregarding the UK’s status as an independent coastal state.

“We need more realism from the EU on the scale of the change that results from our leaving.”

The Government is seeking to use scientific methods – known as “zonal attachment” – to set new quota shares after the transition period.

Whereas Brussels is demanding the pact based on “relative stability” from its Common Fisheries Policy, which Britain joined in 1973, to establish the quota shares.

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The current terms have left Britain’s coastal communities on the edge of ruin as European boats prosper from access to the country’s waters.

In the UK’s Celtic Sea waters, UK vessels are allowed to catch just 10 percent of the haddock quota, and French fishermen net 66 percent.

In the Channel, European boats take 91 percent of cod. And, in the North Sea, British boats are allowed to catch just four percent of sole.

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EU fishing states, such as France, Ireland and Denmark, have ordered Mr Barnier to stand strong in the battle over access to Britain waters – even if it does increase the risk of a no-deal Brexit.

Of the UK’s position, an EU source said: “There is no way the EU can agree to this maximalist demand. Absolutely no way.

“Barnier cannot budge while this stays on the table. He would be crucified.”

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