BRUSSELS – As Brexit talks enter their decisive final days, there’s still a big catch: the fishing industry. It is holding up the trade deal between the European Union and recently departed Britain, putting at risk hundreds of thousands of jobs and tens of billions of euros in annual production losses.
While fishing is a negligible part of the nations’ economies, it is an important point of national pride for coastal and island nations and has a massive impact on politics.
Arch-Brexiteer Nigel Farage put so much stock in the importance of fishing that at one point during his successful 2016 campaign to get Britain out of the EU he steamed up the Thames on a fishing vessel.
Sir Ivan Rogers, a former career diplomat who long was the UK's man at EU headquarters in Brussels, knows what the task is of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson during the final weeks before the Jan. 1 deadline.
“He has to emerge with a win on fisheries," Rogers told a panel at the EPC think tank this week.
If Johnson cannot expel enough EU fishing boats from U.K. waters, a no-deal Brexit would surely ensue, creating chaos and costs for all and ruin for some.
U.K. vessels landed close to 1 billion pounds of fish last year; the gross domestic product of the United Kingdom last year stood at 2.17 trillion pounds,
“It’s not about economics, it’s about politics and the symbolism,” said Barrie Deas, chief executive of Britain’s National Federation of Fishermen’s Organizations.