The UK will regain control of its Exclusive Economic Zone – the area of coastal water that surrounds Britain’s shores – after Brexit and could block access to fishermen from Europe.
The prospect is causing major anxiety in some parts of Europe, with job losses expected in northern European ports if access to UK waters is denied.
Finistère, the French department in the extreme west of Brittany, is fearing a major hit to its fishermen.
Nathalie Sarrabezolles, a local official, said: “The end of the access to the British fishing areas to the Finistère fishing boats is a real economic risk, 50 per cent of the fishing activity in Brittany region is made inside the British Exclusive Economic Zone.”
Meanwhile the Hautes-de-France region in the north of the country, where French President Emmanuel Macron was born, is another region fearing a post-Brexit future without access to UK waters.
The region is home to France’s main fishing port, Boulogne-Calais, which a new report by the EU’s Committee of the Regions describes as the main European centre for the treatment and processing of sea products.
François Decoster, an official for the Hauts-de-France region, said: “Along the region’s coastline nearly 170 small-scale and deep-sea fishing businesses produce a turnover of close to €80million with a fleet of around 190 vessels, providing nearly 900 on-board jobs.
“Wholesaling and processing of sea products provides 5,000 jobs in 150 companies. Thus significant effects are to be expected in the case of a hard Brexit.”
He warns the fragile situation in the region could “unravel” if Britain withdraws from the CFP.
France is not the only country concerned about losing fishing rights to UK waters – some ports in the Netherlands rely heavily on Britain’s Exclusive Economic Zone and major losses are expected if negotiators cannot agree a similar deal to the one already in place.
The provinces of Flevoland and Overijssel predict a potential drop of 60 per cent in fishing business while the coastal town of Urk, which relies on fishing activity for 40 per cent of its economic activity, is concerned about the potential hit to its fishing industries.
It comes after the European Commission was accused of ignoring advice from its own panel of experts when it signed off on a trial allowing around 100 vessels to make use of illegal electric fishing, primarily in the North Sea.
Using the technology is banned in all EU waters, but campaigners and environmental groups, who uncovered the original scientific advice, have blasted the decision by Brussels as a “shocking violation of the code of conduct for commissioners”.
British fishermen have described large parts of ocean as “graveyards” after foreign trawlers equipped with the kit left the area.
Pulse fishing is illegal in EU waters, but following lobbying from the fishing industry in the Netherlands, the Commission granted exemptions in 2006 for mainly Dutch boats to research the effectiveness of the technology.