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Brexit talks between the UK’s chief negotiator David Frost and Michel Barnier continue in Brussels today with a trade deal hanging in the balance. Following four fruitless rounds of discussions several outstanding issues remain including trade, governance and fishing. With the UK set to leave the controversial Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and take back control of UK waters, a transcript from a meeting with Mr Barnier published last week indicated the EU was willing to compromise in order to gain access to UK waters.
The French politician suggested the bloc would be willing to accept a data-driven approach known as zonal attachment, where archaic EU fishing quotas would be replaced a scientific method of managing fishing stocks.
Mr Barnier wants fishing stocks then to be renegotiated annually and fishing levels would be determined by where the fish are – meaning EU boats would continue to plunder UK waters.
David Mitchell, Head of Marine at the Angling Trust, said the proposals would create “uncertainty” in the fishing industry as UK stocks would become unreliable.
David Mitchell, who represents Anglers across England and Wales, said zonal attachment could also result in a lack on investment to the vital sector.
He told Express.co.uk: “Annual negotiations will allow flexibility based on the distribution of stocks from year to year and for the scientific advice to be followed but it will also create uncertainty over what fishing opportunities are going to be available in forthcoming years.
“This is bad for business and prevents people from making investments if stocks move and their access to stocks changes from year to year.”
Due to climate change stocks continue to vary as fish relocate across Europe and the North Sea.
Mr Michell added the plans could block UK fishermen from catching popular fish such as Mackerel, during certain parts of the year if the species relocate from UK waters.
He added: “Zonal attachment would mean access to fishing for UK fleets would be based on where the fish actually are rather than the EU’s current, and chronically outdated, system of relative stability which is based on historic catches from the 1970s.
“Zonal attachment is already used to agree catch limits between the EU and countries such as Norway and Iceland.
“It will be essential in the future a stocks change their distribution due to changing sea temperatures.
“It works both ways though – so if stocks move out of UK waters such as mackerel in the West of Scotland and cod in the southern North Sea UK fishermen cannot expect to have the same access to them that they might have had previously.”
In the transcripts published by the House of Lords from a meeting June 23 between Mr Barnier and Mr Frost, the EU chief outlined the fishing plans and admitted the current CFP was unfair.
He said: “You can discuss fishing stocks regularly every year in the light of the scientific advice, so that we can protect resources and biodiversity, but negotiating access to waters and the fish in those waters every year would be impossible for 100-odd species.
“There will be no trade agreement with the UK if there is no balanced agreement on fisheries.
“Is this ‘balanced agreement’ the British position, as it is now? Certainly not. Is it the European position as it is today? Clearly not.”
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Brexit talks in the Belgian capital will continue until Friday with the Prime Minister’s unofficial deadline of concluding talks by the end of the month looking increasingly unlikely.
With a lack of progress, Brexit was once again on the agenda in the House of Commons on Wednesday after the SNP reignited calls for an extension to the negotiating period.
Cabinet Office minister Penny Mordaunt criticised SNP Westminster leader for “stirring up division” in the Commons over his Brexit demands, which prompted laughter from the green benches
Ms Mordaunt fired back and insisted Mr Frost is “going in to bat for Scotland’s interests” in the coming days.
She added: “I’m sure Scottish fishermen don’t appreciate you laughing.”
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