Spain became the latest European Union member state to challenge the British Government’s pledge to take back full control of British waters from EU vessels after Brexit. British waters have long been a point of contention between the UK and the bloc as many British coastal communities denounced the strict quota system regulating access to fishing stocks around the British Isles. Spanish MEP Esteban González Pons demanded the EU negotiate in a “stiff fashion” with the UK while pledging to “defend” fishermen across the bloc.
Addressing colleagues in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Mr González Pons said: “We’re going to negotiate with them in a stiff fashion as we do with any third country and we will defend our own.
“We will defend the decolonisation of Gibraltar, we are going to defend fishermen, those working at sea as well as those working on land. Our farmers, we are going to defend our products.
“If politicians in the UK want to become a third country, we’ll treat them like a third country.”
According to a report from the Marine Management Organisation released in 2018 found France, the Netherlands and Denmark are the top EU member states to catch fish in British waters.
Spain was the latest EU member to warn the UK the bloc will defend their fishermen
González Pons urged colleagues to negotiate a trade deal in a “stiff fashion”
Paris was found to have earned £171 million from the fish taken around the UK, with Amsterdam and Copenhagen following with earnings around £92 million and £90 million respectively.
Despite talks on fisheries expected to be held separately from trade negotiations, a draft EU document unveiled on Tuesday showed the EU wants there to be provisions for member states to have access to UK waters and vice versa.
Fishing for Leave’s Alan Hastings said: “Fishing is now the acid test of Brexit, and if the Conservatives sell us out a second time instead of exorcising the ghost of Heath they will lose a host of seats.
“Particularly those in Scotland. Lose those and they could lose the Union.
British fishermen hailed Brexit as an opportunity to take back full control of waters
“A far higher price than anything the EU is offering.”
The leaked document also hinted at extending the transition period beyond the end of this year in order to find an “ambitious” deal with the UK.
Boris Johnson repeatedly rejected suggestions he may seek to postpone the end of the transition period past December 2020.
Member states are piling the pressure on Michel Barnier to insist continental trawlers are permitted to continue fishing in the seas around Britain, as well as seeking guarantees on “stable” fishing quota shares when trade talks with the Prime Minister get underway.
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EU countries like France and Denmark heavily depend on access to British fishing waters
The EU is expected to demand Britain agree to give EU vessels free access to UK waters
Speaking last week, Mr Barnier said: “Our free trade agreement must include an agreement on fisheries. This agreement should provide for continued, reciprocal access to markets and to waters with stable quota shares.”
French and Dutch fishermen have voiced their concerns about how radical changes to the current fishing agreement with the UK could have a devastating impact on the sector.
France’s Senator Catherine Fournier, who represents the Pas-de-Calais constituency in northern France, suggested 75 percent of the fishermen living in her seat could lose their “total revenue” should they not be able to fish in UK waters.
Ms Fournier said: “Around 75 percent of fishing taking place in Haute France takes place in British territorial waters – 75 percent.
“It’s vital to fishermen, it’s their total revenue. What will be of them? What type of agreement could they get? When you invest in a fishing boat, the investment is huge.”