The EU and the UK have so far failed to reach a compromise on a number of issues in Brexit trade talks. Brussels’ negotiator Michel Barnier has told Prime Minister Boris Johnson he must allow EU vessels to fish in UK waters if Britain is to be granted access to European markets. French President Emmanuel Macron has been especially vocal during the Brexit talks, pressuring his EU partners to stand by this line and not give the UK concessions. But with the transition period ending in December, fears that the deadlock could lead to a no deal Brexit are growing.
Fisheries could prove to be the issue that derails talks, and also threatens to be the source of hostility once negotiations are done.
BBC Hardtalk spoke to Scottish fishermen from Peterhead, James Stephen, who responded defiantly to threats that France could cut business from the UK.
Reporter Stephen Sackur highlighted the French Government is trying to maintain the EU’s hardline on fisheries.
Mr Stephen said that if France takes action against the UK, a “tit for tat” situation will arise.
He added: “Not a single French boat will fish in UK waters if I can’t get a kilo of fish into France. Simple. Tit for tat.”
The presenter said this sounded like “war on the sea”, to which Mr Stephen replied “so be it”.
In the same documentary from April this year, Mr Sackur met with fishing figures from France.
Permanent Representative for Haut de France to the UK, Jean-Paul Mulot said that fishermen in France could spark blocakdes in the English Channel.
He said: “We are in a tough negotiation, and yes fishing is the first dossier on the table and unfortunately it’s not possible for the French to give up like that.
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France has an annual surplus of about £9billion (€9.86bn) in trade with the UK.
About £2.75billion (€3bn) of that surplus flows from French agricultural exports, making the UK the third-largest market for French farm goods.
The French government has also been forced to pledge some of the £43million (€47million) from the hard Brexit fund to come to the aid of fishermen.