BRITISH fishermen should be able to double the amount of fish they catch in UK waters under a new deal with the EU, industry chiefs have insisted.

The intervention has come as fishing rights look set to dominate the fourth round of talks on a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU.

The country’s fishermen’s federations said they backed the UK Government’s uncompromising stance in ruling out any extension to the transition period, which ends in December, saying any further delay to leaving the hated Common Fisheries Policy[CFP] would only prolong the uncertainty that the sector had suffered since the 2016 EU referendum.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Sturgeon had 'no written briefings' on Covid for months

And one industry leader predicted that any changes to fish quotas agreed with Brussels would, “as day follows night,” result in French fishermen blockading ports in protest.

David Frost, Boris Johnson’s chief negotiator, has made clear that getting an agreement on fishing rights is a “red line” for the Government and signalled that a failure to do so could collapse the whole UK-EU trade talks.

Elspeth Macdonald, Chief Executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, made clear that all the UK wanted was “no more and no less than international law permits and what the EU has with others” like Norway.

She pointed out how under the CFP British fishermen were only entitled to catch less than 40 per cent of fish in UK waters; the comparable figure for Norway was 85% and for Iceland around 90%.

“Getting this right will give the Scottish fleet the opportunity over time to as much as double the amount of raw material that it catches and that can bring wider benefits to the wider supply chain and to our coastal communities.

“To get this right, it means there must be no concessions to access to fishing waters other than those granted through annual negotiations as an independent coastal state just as all our neighbours do,” she said.

As time runs down to the end of June stock-take by national leaders, the EU is continuing to demand a continuation of the status quo in terms of fish quotas in UK waters.

Barrie Deas, who leads the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations, which represents the industry in the rest of the UK, pointed out how France – with 3,000 vessels operating in UK waters throughout the year - benefited more than any other country from the current quota shares.

“The most extreme example is Channel cod where the UK share is nine per cent and the French share is 84%. Given there is a line down the middle of the Channel you could expect zonal attachment to be something a little more equal than that.

“If there is any change to those quota shares or any other aspect that affects French fishermen, then as day follows night there will be blockades. They have done it for much less in the past.”

While the Political Declaration as part of the Brexit deal points to both sides using their “best endeavours” to get an agreement on fishing rights by July 1, securing a deal by that date is not a legal requirement.

Mr Deas stressed fishing rights should be separate from the wider trade talks but there was a political reason for Brussels to link them.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon: Covid-19 resources will be diverted to no-deal Brexit plans if no talks extension

Noting how the EU fleet fished six times as much in UK waters as British vessels did in EU waters, he explained: “There is a big differential there that gives the UK quite a lot of leverage. On the EU side, the leverage is the threat to withhold a trade agreement unless the UK concedes on fisheries. This is something of a nuclear option.”

He acknowledged there was currently a wide gap between the two sides in the trade talks but that he expected to see a deal done sometime in the autumn.

The fishermen’s leader noted that because the industry was “sold out” by the Government in the 1970s, there now seemed to be a close alignment between both sides in the approach to the talks with the EU.

Mr Deas suggested the “landing ground” for a deal on fishing rights would be agreeing to maintain access for the EU fleet in UK waters in return for a new sharing arrangement.

Ms Macdonald noted how the fishing community had been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak but this would begin to ease as the hospitality sector returned.

“But thinking that that should be a reason for an extension in relation to fishing is not helpful,” she declared.

“A further extension just creates more uncertainty. The industry has already had four years of uncertainty since the referendum…In relation to fishing, we feel strongly there are no reasons why we cannot leave the CFP by the end of this year and be going into these [quota]negotiations at the end of this year for the fishing opportunities in 2021 as an independent coastal state.”