BRITAIN should start boarding EU fishing boats in our waters if Brussels doesn’t ditch its ban on UK shellfish, a Tory MP has demanded.
Sheryll Murray, who represents South East Cornwall, said “the time has now come to show the EU that we will not surrender to their games”.
She called on ministers to “start the necessary frequent boardings on EU vessels to ensure they comply with UK rules”.
But environment secretary George Eustice today dismissed the calls and said Britain won’t be taking tit-for-tat measures.
He said: “We have a fisheries protection squad, and we have warranted fisheries protection officers who do that work.
“They will board a vessel if they think it may be fishing in an irregular pattern, maybe targeting species it shouldn’t catch.
“We’re not going to get into the business of retaliatory inspections on vessels because we don’t like what the EU has done on this front.
“Our approach on this is to get the EU to look at this again and actually abide by its own law.”
Mr Eustice said the EU Commission had previously assured him imports of British shellfish wouldn’t be banned after Brexit.
But the furious cabinet minister said eurocrats suddenly changed their stance last week in a move he called “quite unexpected and really indefensible”.
And he warned Brussels that the UK could take a harder line towards EU fishermen in future if it feels unfairly treated.
He said: “We have taken a pragmatic, sensible, phased approach in the initial months, but there’s no obligation on us to continue that.
“We do want to see some reciprocation from the EU in terms of application of common sense and reasonableness.
“We reserve our position in all of those other areas, and of course it goes without saying that any EU vessels accessing UK waters will need to abide by UK law.”
Britain has allies within Brussels who want to see eurocrats take a more pragmatic approach.
Pierre Karleskind, a French MEP who chairs the EU Parliament’s fisheries committee, is challenging the ban.
He said: “I wrote on January 5 to the EU Commission to ask to review this regulation. I am your best ally in this situation.
“Unfortunately the answer I received so far was no, so I’m not satisfied so far with this question.
“The fact is the UK waters didn’t become dirty on December 31 at midnight, so this really doesn’t make any sense.
“We have to find a way to be sure that in the long-term we’ll have the insurance that what we import from the UK does satisfy the high standards of quality for our consumers.”
EU red tape bans the straight import of live shellfish like mussels, oysters, clams, cockles and scallops from all but the very cleanest of waters.
Those from seas that don’t meet those standards, like Britain’s, have to be put through purification tanks before they can be sent to the continent.
But purified shellfish go off faster, making the export of them much less practical.
Previously many UK catches were sent to Europe, where they were put through tanks before being sold on to restaurants and shops.