Ministers have confirmed the bloc’s controversial quota system, the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), will be copied in its entirety into UK law as part of the exit process.
The Government insists that Britain will “become an independent coastal state on the day we leave the European Union” but says Brussels red tape needs to be phased out gradually.
It has drawn up a Great Repeal Bill which will transpose all EU law onto the British statute books, with MPs then set to go through each individual piece and decide what should be kept, amended or binned.
Environment minister George Eustice revealed Britain will leave the CFP in March 2019 but will directly replicate the terms of the programme to “provide continuity on the day we leave”.
Theresa May has pledged to pursue a two-year transitional period “on current terms” and the EU is likely to insist the UK does remain within its fishing policy during that period.
And some EU countries, including Germany and France, are already making noises about demanding permanent access for their vessels to British waters as part of any future trade deal.
The CFP, which allows EU vessels access to UK fishing grounds and imposes strict quotas, is despised by many British trawler men who blame it for decimating what was once a national industry.
And Ukip MEP Mike Hookem, whose Yorkshire and the Humber constituency includes the major shipping port of Grimsby, said any such delay in scrapping the CFP risks diluting one of the major economic benefits of Brexit.
He said: “How can anyone believe that Brexit will be delivered, when such a fundamental Brexit issue has already been capitulated on? Fishing communities from Scotland to Cornwall voted Leave with the single aim of freeing the UK from the shackles of the EU’s hated CFP.
“Under the post-Brexit terms the Conservatives are setting out, we will have to blindly follow whatever terms Brussels dictates to us on fisheries. This is the worst possible type of ‘soft Brexit’ betrayal imaginable and will leave the UK as a junior underling to a very aggressive EU.
“After 45 years of the CFP, the British fishing industry is on its knees and desperately needs the boost that the reclamation of our legally recognised 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) would provide.”
“Fishing is an industry worth a potential £6.3 billion to the UK economy post-Brexit, and not to realise that is foolhardy in the extreme. The inclusion of CFP fisheries rules in the Great Repeal Bill is realising the worst nightmares of British fishing communities.”
After Brexit, the UK will be entitled under international law to lay claim to an EEZ up to 200 miles from its coast, within which the British Government will police how fishing operates.
Mr Hookem’s comments came after 60 coastal communities across nine EU nations called on Brussels to make UK fish exports to the bloc conditional on EU vessels’ access to British waters.
British companies currently export 80 per cent of the catches they land in UK waters – mostly to other EU states – whilst most of the fish bought by UK consumers is imported from European firms.
Ministers have flip-flopped on the issue of whether or not foreign vessels will be able to access British waters after Brexit, with the outcome likely to be tied to a future UK-EU trade deal.