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Frédéric Cuvillier, the Mayor of Boulogne-sur-Mer, which is home to one of the major fishing ports in France, has warned French fisherman could see around 60 percent of its stocks wiped-out overnight if Brussels does not reach an agreement with Britain. The UK is set to break free of the controversial Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and take back control of its waters.
With just 100 days to go until the end of the Brexit transition period, the bloc is hoping to secure a compromise with quotas for EU member states to fish in UK waters.
Mr Cuvillier has said more than 50 percent of all fish caught by fishermen in Boulogne-sur-Mer are done in British waters.
He warned if French boats are banned and re-directed elsewhere it will create more competition and could lead to an “economic tragedy”.
In an interview with French newspaper Le Parisien, Mr Cuvillier said: “A significant part of the Boulogne fleet fishes in British territorial waters.
“This is where our boats make between 50 and 100 percent of the catches, depending on the species.
“On average, 60 percent of the fish comes from UK waters. On January 1, 2021, the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) will be de facto closed to European boats.
“If the European fishing fleets are to be redeployed to other shared areas, there will be overcapacity which will result in an economic tragedy.”
The CFP is governed by the EU and sets out rules and quotas for fishing across the bloc.
Each member state is only allowed to control an area of sea extending 12 miles out from their coastline, with the rest of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) shared.
A UK Government report found EU vessels caught 683,000 tonnes of fish in British waters worth £484million in 2015.
Mr Cuvillier, who previously served as transport minister, has warned up to 5,000 jobs are at stake.
The French Mayor has also called for a branch of the European Fisheries Control Agency to be deployed to the region to ensure the CFP is being adhered to at its ports.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier is currently leading talks with the UK and Mr Cuvillier has demanded French President Emmanuel Macron intervene.
With talks remaining at a deadlock, Mr Cuvillier insists although Brussels is negotiating on behalf of France, it is the French Government which has the responsibility to deal with the fallout from Brexit.
He said: “It is Brussels that is negotiating with London, but there is a responsibility of the French state which is not taking the necessary preparatory measures.
“We will bear the consequences of Brexit. Where is the support plan I’m asking for?
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“Do you think that we have not suffered enough here from the various fisheries crises?”
Other outstanding issues over state aid and how trade will flow to Northern Ireland remain between both sides.
On his arrival into London for informal talks with his counterpart David Frost, Mr Barnier was asked if he was optimistic about reaching a deal, he said: “I am determined.”
Speaking in the House of Commons, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove was also confident an agreement could be completed.
Mr Gove said: “We’re absolutely determined to do everything that we can to secure a deal. No deal is in nobody’s interests.”
(Additional reporting by Maria Ortega)
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