Sunday, 20 Jun 2021

‘They’ll SINK us!’ UK trawlermen terrified of French attacks as Brexit fishing war erupts

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Amid tense relations between the UK and EU, some Scottish fishermen revealed Spanish and French boats have put their trawlermen at risk amid clashes in the waters. Following an incident in the Outer Hebrides, UK fishermen fear a “boat will go down” as EU ships encroach on Britain’s waters. Ian Mackay, skipper of the Loch Inchard revealed he had feared an assault from Spanish and French vessels while out with his crew.

He said: “I thought when they were circling us, they would deploy a rope to try and foul the propeller.”

Indeed, tensions reached a boiling point when one EU trawler nearly rammed a UK boat in the Outer Hebrides last Friday.

Mr Mackay filmed the French vessel, the Sylvanna as it passed close to his 18-metre ship last week.

He told The Times: “He put the lives of my crew and myself in jeopardy by his actions.”

Alison Kay, a Shetland trawler also revealed a Spanish vessel had threatened to foul her ship by wrapping its rudder.

She claimed the ship had violated “one of the fundamental laws of the sea by doing so”.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Our compliance vessels gather information and monitor activity as well as routinely boarding and inspecting the catch and fishing gear regardless of vessel nationality.”

Under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, the UK and EU agreed to a transition period until June 2026 to phase in elements of the agreement.

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Within the agreement, the EU will hand back 25 percent of its fishing quota by 2026.

After 2026, the two sides will negotiate quota shares and access while the deal can be terminated within nine months’ notice.

Despite the agreement, French fishermen blockaded Jersey last month amid a dispute over licences and rights to use the waters around the island.

The blockade saw 60 French vessels surround the island’s St Helier port which forced the Government to dispatch two Royal Navy ships to patrol the waters.

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The French ships protested after not being granted access to fish the waters around Jersey.

However, the UK and Jersey Government’s instituted rules under the Brexit deal which means ships must show they have a history of fishing in the waters.

Senator Ian Gorst, Jersey’s external relations minister told the BBC: “It’s really important that we are able to work with those fishermen to help them provide the necessary evidence so that, if required, their licences can be amended.

“As I’ve said, it’s important that we respond to threats, but the answer to this solution is to continue to talk and diplomacy.”

While French fishermen blockaded the waters, the UK and EU have agreed a deal on the management of fish stock post-Brexit.

The deal was welcomed by the EU who claimed it would allow the two sides to benefit from future cooperation after tense months at the turn of the year.

The agreement now set the total allowed catch for more than 75 shared stocks between the UK and EU for the rest of the year.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “While reaching an agreement has been challenging, our aim throughout these fisheries negotiations has been to safeguard the sustainability of our fish stocks and seek an agreement that respects our new status and works for the UK fishing industry.”

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