Spanish allowed to fish British waters

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The Independent Online
Spanish trawlers will be allowed into large areas of over-fished waters around Britain and Ireland after the Government yesterday lost its long campaign to keep them out.

The compromise accepted by William Waldegrave Agriculture and Fisheries minister in Brussels provoked a fresh outcry from Tory Euro-sceptic MPs.

Tony Marlowe, one of those who lost the whip for opposing the European Finance Bill said: "It's blackmail. A bunch of foreigners are to decide to whom to allocate British fish. These are British fish in British waters and there is nothing our Government can do short of leaving the Common Fisheries Policy."

David Harris, MP for the fishing constituency of St Ives in Cornwall, called the deal a "wretched compromise" with potentially "very serious" consequences.

Mr Waldegrave abstained in a vote on a compromise which allows 40 Spanish vessels into most of the 92,000 square mile Irish Box from the beginning of 1996. All the other European Union ministers voted in favour.

Ministers agreed that the Spanish fleet should continue to stay out of the Bristol Channel between Wales and Cornwall and out of the Irish Sea waters between Britain and Ireland - an area which comprises one third of the box.

Mr Waldegrave knew he would have to surrender some of it, but had fought to exclude the Spanish trawlers from a larger area south of Ireland. In the end he opted to abstain rather than oppose the compromise.

Peter Bromley, vice-chairman of Plymouth Trawlermen's Association, said: "There is not enough room out there for all these boats...it is very bad news.We are never going to get anywhere while we are in Europe and under the thumb of the a policy , which is geared against British fishermen.''

Britain has argued that the Irish Box needed special consideration, as an important spawning ground and because the the West Country, would be severely damaged if Spanish and Portuguese boats moved in and took a large share of the fish.

Spain has a larger fishing fleet than the rest of the European Union put together. British fishermen accuse the Spaniards of routinely breaking the rules.

The negotiations, which have been going on for more than a year, have been tortuous, with Britain and France at loggerheads with Spain. Earlier this week ministers argued through most of the night, then broke up on Tuesday with no agreement.

Talks resumed yesterday and after Britain and Spain failed to make any progress Germany - the EU president - decided to put the matter to a vote.

All countries fishing in the Irish Box, will now be subject to strict control measures in an attempt to ensure they do not exceed fish quotas and increase the depletion of threatened stocks.

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