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Belgian fishing boats given limited access to UK waters

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Belgian fishing boats have been granted 17 licences to fish within the 12-mile limit of the United Kingdom, as part of a post-Brexit agreement, Flemish minister Hilde Crevits (CD&V) has announced.

The deal will allow Belgian boats operating out of the Flemish fishing ports to fish for mainly sole, an important catch for the domestic market.

About half of the total catch by the Belgian fleet traditionally comes from British waters, and when the UK left the European Union at the of last year, it threw the industry into disarray as it waited to see what conditions the UK would apply to their access.

Now 17 licences have been approved, for a duration of five and a half years. The licences have a fixed quota of fish attached, but that detail is still being negotiated.

This is good news for our fishermen,” Crevits said.

The United Kingdom has now granted almost all licenses for fishing in the 12-mile zone. Access to that zone is an important part of the Brexit agreement. From now on our fishermen who go into sea with smaller vessels will be able to fish close to the British coast. In recent weeks we have repeatedly urged London to issue the licences.”

Although the 12-mile waters are important to Belgian fishers, the decision on that matter was left hanging when the last-minute agreement on post-Brexit conditions was signed on Christmas Eve.

Belgium had asked for 18 licences, and received 17. Crevits was also arguing for simplification of the procedures for landing fish in British posts, which has become so complicated that many fishing boats are avoiding the ports altogether to avoid the bureaucracy.

And the European boats are not alone in lamenting the way things have changed since Brexit. British exporters of fish to the continent had been forced to throw away otherwise expensive shipments of fish for buyers in France and Spain because it was no longer fresh enough by the time it had made the crossing.

Some boats have been landing their catch in Denmark to avoid the British bureaucracy, and earlier this month the federation of Scottish fishermen addressed an angry open letter to UK prime minister Boris Johnson, complaining of the “desperately poor” deal he had agreed with the EU.

You and your Government have spun a line about a 25% uplift in quota for the UK, but you know this is not true, and your deal does not deliver that,” the letter says.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times