BRITAIN will not face an easy ride from the EU on its seafood exports unless it agrees to catch exchange deals, reports from Brussels suggest.
The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, warned on a trip to Denmark at the weekend that the UK fishing industry could lose access to European markets if EU fishermen were denied the right to fish in British waters. He said: ‘The two things are clearly linked.’
Danish fishermen are among those who have the most to lose if access is denied, and Danish politicians have said they will support Barnier if he decides to get tough with London on this issue.
When the UK leaves the EU next year it will take back full control of its fishing grounds and, in theory, it can keep them for the exclusive use of British fishermen.
Barnier acknowledged this much when he visited the large Danish port of Thyborøn at the weekend.
But both the UK government and the fishing industry publicly stated there will need to be mutually beneficial exchange arrangements with neighbouring EU countries including Ireland, France and Denmark, and also with Norway which is outside the EU.
If any serious arguments arise they are likely to be over how much fish those European countries want to take and what the British are prepared to concede.
EU vessels currently catch around 780,000 tonnes in what will soon be British only waters. In contrast, UK vessels take just 90,000 tonnes from EU grounds – an enormous gap.
But failure to reach agreement would almost certainly lead to a block or the introduction of high tariffs on UK seafood exports, including farmed salmon.
UK seafood processors such as Young’s, Findus and Seachill, who see Europe as a potential growth market for their products, will be anxiously watching progress (or the lack of it) over the next 12 months.