COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Danish fishermen could be hit hard by Britain’s decision to leave the European Union if it leads to restrictions in their access to British waters, a research report made on request of the Danish government concluded on Wednesday.
The Danish fishing lobby has strong clout in Copenhagen and could press the government to adopt a tough stance in Britain’s negotiations with the EU on a post-Brexit trade deal. European fishermen want Brussels to use its trump card - continued access to the essential EU market - in negotiations on how to divvy up the seas.
Those Danish fishermen that operate the most in British waters could lose more than half of their current catch in the worst of four imagined scenarios, researchers from Copenhagen University concluded in the report.
The actual consequences will depend on the negotiations between Britain and the other 27 EU countries, Minister for Fisheries Karen Ellemann said.
“We are working with the other affected countries to maintain our fishing opportunities and access to British waters,” she said in a comment on the report.
Each of the years from 2012 through to 2016 Danish fishermen have unloaded fish from British waters worth between 700 million and 1 billion Danish crowns ($109-156 million).
That corresponds to 34 percent of the total value of fish uploaded by the Danish fishermen, and 45 percent of the volume.
Herring and mackerel would be especially hit, and it would indirectly hurt Denmark’s onshore fish processing industry.
“The Danish vessels might change behavior in a way which has not been foreseen in the analysis, or other fishing opportunities might become possible, for instance in the Norwegian zone,” the researchers said in the report.
Danish fishermen have argued that if the British get free access to sell fish in the EU, then EU fishermen should also get free access to fish in the British fishing zone. Europe imports about 75 percent of the British catch.
Britain has said it plans to allow foreign ships to fish in UK waters after Brexit but claims the right to decide the extent of access. The EU will be seeking to maintain something close to the status quo, industry sources have told Reuters.
Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise