In Roscoff, fishermen unload monkfish, turbots and lobsters, partly caught in English waters, while British ships unload their merchandise for the European market. All are expressing their concern at the idea of a hard Brexit on January 1.
“We are really in a period of uncertainty, we do not know what sauce we are going to be eaten in”, worries Erwan Dussaud, of the Beganton armament, which has five caseyeurs from 20 to 25 meters fishing for cakes and lobsters in English waters. “It’s quite complicated to project yourself,” he laments.
The United Kingdom officially left the EU on January 31, 2020 but the effect of the divorce will not be fully felt until January 1, 2021. Difficult negotiations are currently underway, which relate in particular to the level of access for Europeans to the British territorial sea, full of fish.
In the case of an access restriction, “in two or three years it will be over for us”, plague Jean-Philippe Guillerm, boss of a 15-meter gillnet, saying he achieves 40% of his turnover in English waters.
Ditto for Franck Brossier who owns three gillers in the Breton port. “We are going to lose a historic fishing area” and we will have to “refer to other areas with all the problems that this implies”, he assures, while supervising the unloading of his fish in front of the port auction Finistérien, which has around forty fishing boats.
“We will end up with a greater concentration of boats in a more restricted area, which will imply in the very short term an overexploitation of these fishing areas”, regrets the sailor, stressing the “problems of cohabitation” which are likely to arise with Spanish, Dutch or Irish ships.
“It’s going to be very, very complicated,” predicts this big fan of Liverpool football club, who named their boats “Liverpool”, “Anfield Road”, from the name of the Reds’ stadium, and “Ian Rush” from that of the legend of the club.
– Consequences for English fishermen –
However, the sailor is adamant: if the ongoing negotiations between London and Brussels fail and French fishermen are deprived of English waters, there will be consequences for English fishermen.
“Of course, we will not let the English unload their goods in France”, he warns, certain that “the profession will be able to mobilize very quickly”.
Not far away, on another quay of the small port on the north coast of Finistère, Ben Laity, English boss of Ocean Pride, also unloads his fish. “It’s a little worrying,” he reacts to the idea of being prevented from selling his merchandise in France. “I prefer to unload my fish here as we always have done”, he assures, after having emptied the entrails of his boat in a truck which will transport the fish to the fish auction of Guilvinec, in the south-Finistère .
The sailor explains having unloaded part of his goods at the beginning of the week in Newlyn, the biggest port of Cornwall, in the British south-east, but “the price was not very good”. He then decided to take it to Guilvinec. “We always have a very good price for our fish there,” explains the man with the strong Cornish accent.
“We do not catch enough fish in relation to French consumption so we will be forced to buy English fish,” said Erwan Dussaud, betting on an in extremis agreement between London and Brussels over the next few days.
A feeling shared by Ben Laity who judges however that “the English should get a lot more than what is offered to them for the moment which, to be honest, is not much”.
There is no doubt that the negotiations between London, which wishes to retain full control of its waters, and Brussels, which advocates the status quo, still have a bright future ahead of them.