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As wrangling over a free-trade agreement in Brussels continues, the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations insisted the Government is in a position to secure a vital boost for British boats. NFFO chief executive Barrie Deas claimed the bloc’s reliance on access to the UK’s coastal waters gives Lord Frost, the Prime Minister’s Brexit envoy, the upper hand in the talks. He said there was a “big disparity” in the amount of time EU boats spend in British waters compared to their UK counterparts in European fishing grounds.
Mr Deas added: “The UK has quite a lot of leverage because the EU fleets fish around five or six times more in our waters compared to our fleets fishing in EU waters.”
UK fishing leaders say France benefits from 84 percent of English Channel cod while Britain receives about nine per cent.
French boats also have a 66 percent quota in the Celtic Sea compared with the UK’s 10 percent.
Mr Deas comments came after new details of a fisheries compromise emerged from the post-Brexit trade talks with the EU.
Under new plans presented by British negotiators, the EU would be offered a three-year transition period to allow European boats to prepare for the changes.
Fishing opportunities for EU vessels would be “phased down” between 2021 and 2024 to offer coastal communities time to adapt to the changes.
The plans were presented as an eleventh hour attempt by Lord Frost to break the Brexit logjam.
Commenting on the proposals, Mr Deas said: “The key point for us is the destination.
“We must have absolute certainty that at the end of this we have full access to full quota shares that we as an independent coastal state have a right to expect.”
Downing Street is adamant that the proposals will not infringe the UK’s sovereignty over its coastal waters.
A UK official said: “On fisheries, we have been clear that we won’t accept any proposals which compromise UK sovereignty over our fishing waters. We’re seeking a relationship based on the EU’s existing bilateral relationship with Norway.
“In order to make progress, the EU must accept our position as an independent coastal state and any agreement on quotas must reflect that reality.
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“We remain committed to working hard to reach agreement by the middle of October.”
Meanwhile France faces mounting pressure to back down from its demands to secure status quo access to Britain’s fishing grounds.
EU diplomats urged President Emmanuel Macron’s Brussels envoy to drop his “unrealistic” call for the UK to remain tied to the bloc’s Common Fisheries Policy beyond the end of the post-Brexit transition period.
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Earlier this week at a private Brussels meeting, top European diplomats decided the bloc was being “too strict” with its demands to maintain status quo access to Britain’s coastal waters after the end of the year.
Landlocked member states urged their coastal neighbours to soften their approach or risk scuppering the talks.
Mr Deas branded previous proposals by Paris for a 20-year fisheries agreement “unacceptable”.
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