'No one will win': French fishermen fear consequences of no-deal Brexit

A French fishing vessel in the North Sea.
A French fishing vessel in the North Sea. © Reuters / France 24

As the deadline nears for an agreement on a post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and the European Union, fishermen in France fear they may soon be barred from fishing in British waters if an accord cannot soon be reached, something they say would be a catastrophe for their livelihoods.

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Fishing rights are one of the main sticking points as Brexit negotiations go down to the wire.

The UK wants British fishing vessels to be given priority to fish in UK waters. But the EU is pushing for current access and quotas for EU vessels to remain largely unchanged.

French fishermen have lobbied President Emmanuel Macron to stand firm on fishing rights

But if a deal cannot be reached by January 1, it could mean French and other EU boats can no longer fish at all off the coast of the UK.

For French fishermen like the Margolle brothers, based in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France's busiest fishing port, that would be a disaster.

They earn more than half their annual income from fish caught off British shores.

"If there's a no dea,l it's going to be complicated because European boats won't have access to British waters anymore," Nicolas Margolle told Reuters.

"So we're all going to find ourselves in the French strip – with all the Belgian, Dutch boats, the French, of course. There's never going to be enough room for everyone. And so the resources are going to be wiped out."

"It would be a catastrophe for the whole coastline," added his brother, Jeremy.

The UK fishing industry also stands to lose heavily if a deal cannot be secured. It would mean restricted access to the EU market for British fishing vessels to sell their catch.

And as the deadline for a deal approaches, the future looks uncertain for fishermen on both sides of the Channel.

"Whatever happens, no fishermen are going to win here," said Nicolas Margolle. "I'm sure there won't be any British fishermen who are satisfied, no French fishermen satisfied."

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