GERMANY has called on the European Union to prepare for its fishermen being shut out of Britain’s coastal grounds as the row over a Brexit deal intensifies.
Agriculture minister Julia Klockner insisted the bloc would continue to demand continued access to UK waters as part of the trade and security talks. “We need to defend the interest of our fisheries industry and our processing industry in the EU,” she told the European Parliament’s fisheries committee. The German minister added: “Our fishermen and woman need access rights to the UK’s territorial waters and need fishing opportunities.
“I certainly hope that a timely agreement is possible. But, of course, we need to prepare for all scenarios, including a no-deal scenario.”
Ms Klockner’s warning came after Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, threatened to sink any chances of a trade deal unless Boris Johnson surrenders to the bloc’s demand for unlimited access to Britain’s waters.
The Prime Minister has repeatedly insisted Brexit must deliver a noticeable boost for the country’s fishing industry.
The battle over access to Britain’s territorial waters is a “real sticking point in the conclusion of any agreement”, Ms Klockner told MEPs.
She insisted Germany, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, would not seek to water down the bloc’s demands during the trade talks.
“For fisheries, we want to ensure we have at least the status quo,” the German agriculture minister said.
“There is a clear link between a general free-trade agreement and a specific fisheries agreement. We cannot separate the two, I think that’s crucial to bear in mind.”
The EU’s refusal to budge on fisheries has raised concerns of another stalemate when the two sides meet for more negotiations in London next week.
Mr Barnier has accused the UK of not showing any willingness to compromise on access to its coastal waters.
With chances of a no-deal Brexit increasing, Germany is preparing a “Plan B” for the bloc’s fishermen.
Ms Klockner said the industry could be propped by a €5 billion cash reserve for the “fallout of a no-deal Brexit”.
The EU is also planning emergency changes to its fishing opportunities for European vessels, which will likely cause deep divisions amongst the member states.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “The EU have refused to engage with our proposals and the documents, which we brought to the table, insisting that we must accept continuity with EU fisheries policy and disregarding the UK’s status as an independent coastal state. We need more realism from the EU on the scale of the change that results from our leaving the EU.
“We do want an agreement and are looking for a relationship based on the EU’s existing bilateral relationship arrangement on fishing with Norway, which is the most relevant precedent for a relationship between two independent coastal states.”
“Michel Barnier’s comments are a misleading representation of our proposals, aimed at deflecting scrutiny from the EU’s own positions, which are unrealistic and unprecedented,” the spokesman added.
“For our part we have been consistently clear that we are seeking a relationship that reflects our sovereignty and which has a free trade agreement at its core, similar to those that the EU has already agreed with like-minded countries.