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The EU27 have benefited from unfettered access to British waters while the country was a member of the bloc. However, as Brexit trade talks erupt into chaos, rows over fisheries continue to produce little progress. Brussels’ chief negotiator Michel Barnier, has told the UK it cannot keep access to European markets unless EU nations can fish in British waters. Lasse Gustavsson, executive director for the European branch of Oceana, highlighted how Brexit could impact Denmark’s fishermen. He said: “Denmark is the most vulnerable of all. It’s a tiny little country, they have almost no water of their own.
“I’ve seen the Danish government preparing documents to claim historical rights because they were fishing in the North Sea in the 1200s.”
Denmark is one of many EU countries whose coastal towns rely partly on UK waters to keep their businesses afloat, but will lose access to these crucial grounds if Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his colleagues get their way.
However, if a no deal scenario is the conclusion to negotiations, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen believes she may have a plan to help her country remain active in British fishing grounds.
In 2017, Denmark built a legal case claiming the country’s historic rights to fish in Britain’s waters date back to the 1400s.
Officials in Copenhagen have mined the archives to build a case that could potentially be fought in the international court of justice in The Hague.
Denmark’s foreign affairs minister, Anders Samuelsen, told The Guardian at the time that the issue was crucial to many communities in Denmark and that they would be making their case through Mr Barnier.
He said: “Danish fishermen have historically been fishing across the North Sea. The Common Fisheries Policy in the EU has regulated this, based on historical rights and preserving our common stocks that don’t follow economic zones.
“Clearly, this is very important for many fishing communities especially along the Jutland coast, and we all put our full support behind the EU’s negotiators to find the best way forward.”
Anger in Copenhagen is clear as the country prepares for a potentially devastating impact on its fisheries post-Brexit.
Expert on fisheries, Professor Aaron Hatcher, said in a report: “Denmark, for example, would find it impossible to catch its quotas of herring and mackerel if it could no longer fish in UK waters, with devastating consequences for its industry.
“This is why the EU is determined that the current level of access be maintained, and it has stated this quite clearly.”
In his report, Professor Hatcher also warns that UK fishermen could feel let down by the end of the Brexit trade talks.
He argued that Mr Johnson will ultimately prioritise access to European markets, as over 70 percent of fisheries exports goes to the EU.
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Professor Hatcher added: “Most of the UK’s high value catch is exported, the great majority to the EU.
“Tariff-free trade in fish with the EU is therefore vital for the UK fishing industry.
“While the industry has continually sought (and been given) reassurances from the Government that access to markets and access to resources will not be linked, in practice they almost certainly will be.”
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