France EU-UK trade deal veto threat
December 3, 2020 - France -- backed by Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium -- has threatened to veto any EU-UK trade deal with Britain if EU negotiators surrender too much access to British fishing waters.
Once any trade deal is agreed, it must be unanimously approved by all EU leaders if it is to take effect -- this means that chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has to keep all member states on board.
In 2018, more than 1.9 million tonnes of fish and shellfish, worth about £1.7 billion (€2.32 billion), was landed from the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ), according to the University of the Highlands and Islands.
British fishing vessels’ share of the landings of fish and shellfish from British waters fell from 37 per cent in 2016 to 29 per cent in 2018, primarily driven by EU reductions in quotas. This catch weighed 555,000 tonnes and was worth £827 million (€1,120 million). By contrast, non-UK boats took 1,390,000 tonnes of fish out of UK waters, worth £827 million (€1,196 million). Of this, EU-27 ships landed 863,000 tonnes valued at £580 million (€785.7 million).
France has a total of 20,000 fishermen, on top of 10,000 fish processing jobs. On average between 2011-2015, France caught some 98,000 tonnes of fish in British waters -- a quarter of France’s catch in the north-eastern Atlantic, according to Reuters.
Under the European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), the UK ceded control of its fisheries to the EU. One of the ironies of CFP quotas is that although UK waters are well stocked, Britain imports fish due to EU quotas. In 2016, the UK imported 114,500 tonnes of cod, with Iceland (36,340 tonnes) and China (23,900 tonnes) being the principal suppliers.
Disagreements remain on access to British waters and fishing quotas, as well as on how to manage disputes. The UK wants an annual arrangement, which France and others have said they will not accept.