The British government is considering delaying EU access to UK fishing waters if the ongoing dispute over shellfish is not resolved.
Under the terms of the trade deal with the EU, Britain cannot impose discriminatory sanctions, but the Telegraph has learnt plans are afoot to start sluggishly processing licences for European vessels intending to fish inside the 12-mile nautical zone.
“There are things we could do to make their life difficult,” said a Whitehall source. However, Downing Street said refused to acknowledge the plans.
Direct funding to UK fishermen is also being considered.
The mooted retaliation is the latest in a series of developments this week in the war over UK-sourced bivalve sea molluscs such as mussels, cockles, and oysters, following the EU’s startling decision last month to indefinitely prolong a ban on imports that was originally set to expire in April.
Environment Secretary George Eustice has already hinted at reprisals, telling the House of Commons he was committed to “a pragmatic, sensible, phased approach [to fisheries] in the initial months” of post-Brexit arrangements, but warned “there is no obligation on us to continue that.”
He went on to demand “some reciprocation from the EU on the application of common sense and reasonableness,” adding, “it goes without saying that any EU vessels accessing UK waters will need to abide by UK law.”
The ban was originally put in place so that the UK wild shellfish industry could bring its certification up to scratch in order to export to the EU market where virtually all bivalve molluscs are processed.
However, an unlikely figure has confirmed that the certification ruse is just regulatory hogwash as British shellfish are the same commodity they were weeks ago when the UK was still in the EU single market and exports were thriving.
Earlier this week, French MEP, Pierre Karleskind, a member of Emmanuel Macron’s LREM party said the ban “doesn’t make any sense” because “UK waters didn’t become dirty on December 31 at midnight”. As an oceanographer, Karleskind’s comments carry extra weight.
The spat with the EU over shellfish, which according to reports, stems from French pressure, is just one of several disputes with the bloc.
Brussels is still smarting over its failed attempt to secure more of the Oxford jab as its vaccine programme descended into farce and Eurocrats are still bitter over the UK’s refusal to grant ambassador status to the EU’s envoy to Britain.
Speaking at a House of Lords committee hearing on Tuesday, Britain’s former chief negotiator to the EU, Lord Frost said: “I think it has been more than bumpy in the last six weeks, I think it has been problematic.”