While the UK left the bloc in January, it has remained under EU rules up until now and will do so until December 31 this year. This is because the country is currently in a transition period, designed to keep the UK in the customs union and single market until the agreement for a future trading relationship is ratified. During this period, the pre-existing conditions of the Common Fisheries Policy have been maintained. The EU and the UK aimed to have a deal agreed today on fisheries, but with the impasse remaining – the conditions of the Common Fisheries Policy are set to continue until December 2020.
With talks in deadlock and Prime Minister Boris Johnson rejecting a transition period – a no deal scenario remains possible.
The Government’s Yellowhammer report made a surprising claim when published in September last year.
It warned that 300 foreign boats would be fishing in British waters on day one of a no deal Brexit, threatening violent clashes at sea and chaos at ports.
As the Times reported at the time, French fishermen threatened to stop British-caught fish being sold in France if they are stopped from trawling UK waters.
Such scenes risked reviving hostilities of the previous year when French fishermen attacked British boats in the Channel in a scallops row.
The document said in full: “Up to 282 EU and European Economic Area nations’ fishing vessels could enter illegally or are already fishing in UK waters: up to 129 vessels in English waters, 100 in Scottish waters, 40 in Welsh waters and 13 in Northern Irish waters on Day one.
“This is likely to cause anger and frustration in the UK catching sector, which could lead to clashes between fishing vessels and an increase in non-compliance in the domestic fleet.
“Competing demands on UK government and maritime departmental agencies and their assets could put enforcement and response capabilities at risk, especially in the event of illegal fishing, border violations (smuggling and illegal migration) and any disorder or criminality arising as a result, eg violent disputes or blockloading of ports.”
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In addition, Yellowhammer warned the flow of cross-Channel goods could face “significant disruption lasting up to six months”.
The report concluded: “Unmitigated, this will have an impact on the supply of medicines and medical supplies.
“The reliance of medicines and medical products’ supply chains on the short straits crossing make them particularly vulnerable to severe extended delays.”