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Prime Minister Boris Johnson is drawing up legislation to override the withdrawal agreement, a move that could lead to the collapse of negotiations between the UK and the EU. Mr Johnson plans to send Brussels an ultimatum, telling the bloc that an agreement must be reached by October 15 or the UK will walk away. Talks had already stalled with both Mr Barnier and UK negotiator David Frost expressing frustration. The Brussels’ negotiator even warned that a deal would be “unlikely” if the stalemate continued.
The UK has warned the EU that it is also prepared to walk away from trade talks over Brussels’ state aid demands.
The two parties have also clashed over fisheries, as the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, insists that if the UK doesn’t open up its waters, access to European market will be denied.
A no deal scenario would pose huge challenges to the bloc’s fishermen, as highlighted by fears in Belgium.
According to recent estimates, 33 percent of the catches of the European fishing fleet are caught in British waters.
Belgium’s 402 fishermen and their 65 boats, whose main catch is dover sole, are more dependent on those waters than most.
Rederscentrale, the organisation that represents Belgium’s fishermen, Emiel Brouckaert, its managing director, and Urbain Wintein, a 60-year-old fisherman who seeks catches in Britain’s seas, admitted they were worried about what Brexit might mean for their future.
Mr Brouckaert said: “Everyone is thinking about Brexit and the consequences.
“Just under 50 percent of our catches are in our waters, and we hear what our [British] colleagues’ requirements might be, though we realise there are some extreme views there.
“We’ve had up to now very good relations with our British colleagues.
“A decision has been made by the UK to leave the EU and it is making people worried, but despite all the political things happening, we still hope we can have business as usual.
“If that’s in a common fisheries policy or a policy jointly negotiated, that is the first thing we are thinking about. Similar access, similar distribution of the quota.”
Other figures from Belgium have expressed dread at the prospect of competing with other countries in a smaller body of water.
Jan Buisseret, commercial manager at Ostend auction in Belgium, said: “It will mean that the whole fleet of Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Ireland will fish in the coast close to Europe.
“But there is no room for everyone. If we have rights to fish in British areas, the Brits will have the rights to sell their products here in Europe because they do not have fleets, they do not have the same consumption of fish as we have.”
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Fishermen Bruno Decordiar spends 60 percent of his time fishing in British waters. He’s worried that Brexit could harm his activity.
He told Euronews: “We are often at English ports and when we speak with British fishermen they tell us that we take all their fish.
“If they close the waters I’m sure we’ll lose half of our income.”
Stephane Pinto, fisherman and vice-president of the fisheries committee, said: “If tomorrow there is no deal Brexit, meaning a hard Brexit, all the flotillas of Europe, the Belgians, the Dutch, and the French will all be in the same fishing zone.
“And in terms of cohabitation that would be difficult. I think there would be a naval battle.”
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