• By The Financial District


It's an industry that makes only a tiny contribution to the overall economy in the UK and the EU. And yet fishing has cast a huge net over the Brexit trade talks from the beginning, Euronews reported.

As European leaders meet for Thursday's EU summit, there are signs that the ongoing tussle over fishing rights could blow up into a major conflagration that torpedoes the chances of a trade deal.

"Fisheries is the most difficult issues remaining for us," the UK's chief negotiator David Frost admitted to British MPs last week.

The UK wants to take back control of its own waters, while EU countries have been holding out for the same access to British fishing grounds as they've enjoyed for decadesUnder the terms of the negotiations, if there is no deal on fish, there can be no free trade agreement at all.

Why is fishing so important for each side?

According to one measure of national wealth, latest UK statistics this month say that in 2019 marine fishing produced a grand total of 0.04% of GVA (gross value added).

But in terms of symbolism, the industry is hugely important to an island nation seeking to assert its independence. Fishing ports dotted around the UK's four nations employ only 12,000 fishermen. But their communities are often highly dependent on the trade.

Equally, for several EU coastal states fishing is similarly important, and access to British waters particularly so. Under EU rules European boats have been able to take 60% of their landing in seas around the UK.