He can post – trying to project a firm stance for the benefit of EU negotiators or his people. But as they try to fix what will happen after a period of Brexit transition expires in December, Britain and the EU really seem to be dissatisfied with the fish.
Johnson complained: “They want the continued ability to control our legislative freedom, our fishing, in a way that is obviously unacceptable in an independent country.”
French President Emmanuel Macron insisted that French pecheurs should not lose their right to take mackerel from the English Channel.
“In any case, our fishermen will be sacrificed for Brexit,”; Macron told French RFI radio on Friday when he arrived in Brussels for a European summit. “We did not choose Brexit – this is the choice of the British people.”
If Britain does not allow French fishermen in its waters, the EU has no choice but to block energy supplies in the UK, Macron said.
That should be repeated. The French president threatens to launch a cripple energy embargo against Britain over fishing rights.
It did not escape the economist’s notice that fishing represented only 0.12 per cent of Britain’s total domestic domestic product, cited by the London Times nearly 60 times. less than in the financial services sector.
Fishing in France costs about 1 percent of its GDP, with comparable numbers in the Netherlands and Denmark.
The three EU countries rely on British water to fill their nets. A quarter of France’s national catch comes from Britain’s fecund waters.
To be sure, a fish agreement is not the only thing that stands in the way of a commodity agreement after Brexit. The two sides are also battling about “level playing field” and state subsidies and customs duties in Ireland.
But fishing has a particular resonance. It plays on the love of ancient battles between Britain and France, as well as the nationalism that pushed Brexit.
During Johnson’s winning campaign for Brexit in the summer of 2016, the future prime minister encouraged inclinations to the idea that foreigners were taking in too much English fish.
Since then, fishing has played an outsized role in the Brexit negotiations, said Simon Usherwood, a professor of politics at the University of Surrey.
“In the end, these economic terms are a relatively insignificant part of the economy, both on the EU and UK side. It’s not really about the economy, it’s more symbolic,” he said. “But it reflects the whole way of Brexit is gone. Our focus is more on the symbolic as we do the substantive. “
Standing in fishing, Macron suggested at a news conference last week, would help Johnson claim even a slight victory in the event of no profitable results.
“Fishing is a topic used by British tactics. Why? Because, in the event of no deal, this is the only topic on which Boris Johnson can say he won,” Macron said. “Without a deal, European fishermen will will not have access to UK water. This is the reality. “
On Thursday, Clément Beaune, Europe’s Macron minister, and Annick Girardin, France’s maritime minister, traveled to the village of Port-en-Bessin, not far from Omaha Beach, to mollify the uncomfortable fishermen.
“We will negotiate calm and good stability,” Beaune said.
The French have already rejected a proposed compromise that could result in the annual readjustment of fishing quotas between France and Britain. As Beaune visits the beaches of Normandy: “Too complicated, not enough visibility of fishermen.”
Beyond the political show, many fishermen on the cold, rocky coast of northern France have expressed concerns about the future of their industry, especially after the catastrophic month of lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic.
“If this is a no-brainer, it will be a mess! We will put boats at a stable station, because we will not be able to fish anywhere,” said Dimiti Rogoff, president of the Normandy Regional Fisheries Committee, speaking to newspaper of Les Echos of France.
Sophie Leroy, who owns and operates four fishing boats with her husband, said nearly 80 per cent of their catch came from British waters. A Brexit without a deal could fall on French fishing, he told Les Echos, it could also hurt British fishing.
“If there is no deal, we will not allow a single British fish to enter our ports in France,” Leroy said. “We will not sacrifice our companies and just let English release their products.”
The genius of Brexit’s slogan “take control” fits well with Bril’s statement unilaterally controlling who gets fishing in their waters. But fisheries management is a global negotiation.
Most fish caught in British waters are not eaten by the Brits, but go to France and Spain, where there is a great demand for the types of flat fish caught in British waters and where people eat of more fish per capita.
Meanwhile, the Brits were partly on prawns, which came from outside the waters of Britain.
“Fish is not always where consumers are,” Usherwood said. “The beautiful, simple statement that we should be able to fish in our water is neglecting what happens to the fish after you catch it.”
Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organizations, says Britain’s fishing industry is “poorly treated” by the EU
When Britain joined the European Economic Community – the forerunner to the EU – in the 1970s “fishing was really sold. It was considered costly, and that tied us to an asymmetrical and exploitative relationship for 40 years,” he said.
In Deas’ analysis, what Johnson’s negotiators want is “nothing too good, just the usual relationship of the two coastal states that shares stocks with each other. I think what we are looking for is the international standard.”
Deas, however, admits that fishing “has become a symbol of Brexit.”
Martyn Boyers, chief executive of Grimsby Fish Market on England’s northeastern coast, said fishing was “of little economic importance but of high emotional importance. So the fishing got in the middle of the stage, which was weird for us. Usually, no one worries about fishing. “
Boyers however said he wanted to make a subtle but very important point. The British fishing industry wants to not only regain control of its waters, but to freely import and export to Europe, through its processors.
In Britain, Boyers said, 80 per cent of Brits’ fish exports are exported, and 80 per cent of what Brits eat – mainly cod and haddock for fish and chips – are imported.
So free trade is important.
Most of the fish in the Grimsby Fish Market comes from Norway and Iceland by container containers. It was not caught a few miles from shore, and, in fact, Grimsby does not have much local fishing fleet today.
Referring to the negotiations, Boyers warned, “While the emphasis is on Europeans entering our waters, we also have concerns about quotas, trade and tariffs from the Icelandic and Norwegian sides.”
Meaning? “At the end of the day, we hope the mindset will prevail and come out with a reasonable solution. But it will be complicated.”
He said, “We used to be the fifth largest fishing port in the world. We are not now. The only way we can go is upwards. “
Reported by McAuley from Paris.