Boris Johnson delivered Brexit as promised on January 31, clearing the path for the UK to finally leave the European Union. He will now turn his attentions to trade talks with Brussels, which will begin next month and wants a full post-Brexit deal in place by the end of the transition period in December 2020. But fishing has already emerged as arguably the biggest stumbling block in upcoming negotiations.
The Prime Minister is pushing for a Canada-style deal before the end of the transition period in December – an agreement which took Canada and Brussels to agree on between 2009 and 2017.
Mr Johnson has insisted British fishing grounds are “first and foremost” for UK boats, but the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has said allowing European trawlers into British waters was “inextricably linked” to striking a trade agreement.
Professor Alex de Ruyter, director of the Centre for Brexit Studies at Birmingham City University, warned: “The EU will insist on access to UK fishing waters in addition to level-playing field provisions and precursors to any trade agreement.
“The most likely result of failure would be tariffs on UK fishing exports which (unless the UK public discover a vastly increased appetite for langoustines and smoked salmon) would bring the fishing industry to its knees.
“Expect UK fishermen to be the first thrown overboard if Johnson seriously wants to pursue a trade agreement with the EU.”
If the Prime Minister does sacrifice UK fishing in exchange for a more favourable trade deal with the EU, other member states would still have access to UK waters.
But Mr de Ruyter warned whilst British fishermen have continued to vent their fury at Brussels over their treatment, they should in fact be looking closer to home for more definitive answers.