Britain to dig in heels over over EU fishing-fleet cuts

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Britain will refuse to co-operate with plans to cut back the European Union's fishing fleets when fisheries ministers meet in Luxembourg on Monday, the Fisheries minister Tony Baldry said yesterday.

The Government's policy is to have nothing to do with the fleet cuts - seen as an essential way of reducing over-fishing - until "quota hopping" by foreign-owned and -crewed boats ends. The quota hoppers, nearly all Spaniards or Dutch, have purchased British vessels and fishing licences giving them a right to a large part of the United Kingdom fish quota in the Channel and North Sea, and their catch is mostly landed overseas. Britain is expecting to be left isolated at the Council of Ministers meeting on Monday and Tuesday while the other fisheries ministers make progress on agreeing fleet cuts. The Government's view is that the quota hopping crisis can only be sorted out by changing the EU's founding Treaty in the Intergovernmental Conference talks, due to climax in Amsterdam in June.