Brexit: Why France is raising the stakes over fishing

By Lucy Williamson

duration5 hours ago

image captionFrance has so far refused to consider any change to existing fishing arrangements

In a cramped cabin, with the green waters of the Channel bobbing and tipping outside, Laurent Merlin listens to messages from Dutch and Belgian fishermen crackling over the radio.

Sharing their positions helps avoid any clashes – a technique that works better at sea than at summits.

With less than three months to go until Britain leaves the EU single market, fishing has become a key sticking point in negotiating a trade deal to replace it. Especially when it comes to access for EU fishermen in UK waters.

European leaders are due to meet on Thursday to try to find a way forward.

image captionMost of the crabs and lobsters caught by this French boat come from UK waters

Laurent Merlin is based in Boulogne-sur-Mer, a city at the heart of France’s fishing industry.

His grandfather used to fish in the waters off Scotland, while his father fished in the Channel.

‘We might decide to flex our muscles’

Today, three-quarters of Laurent’s own crabs and lobsters come from British fishing grounds. He’s worried that the ebb and flow of post-Brexit trade negotiations could sink boats like his if they’re denied access.

“If we can’t enter British waters, it’s practically the end of our profession,” he said.

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