Denmark is trying to block Britain 'taking back control' of its fishing waters after Brexit

Lars Lokke RasmussenGeert Vanden Wijngaert AP/Press Association ImagesDanish prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen.

LONDON — Denmark plans to challenge the UK government’s mission to “take back control” of its fishing waters after Brexit by launching a legal case that could find its way to the International Court of Justice.

Politicians in Copenhagen will use archaic laws dating back to 15th-century to argue Danish fishermen have a right to work in the seas surrounding Britain, even once the latter has left the European Union, the Guardian reports.

Denmark intends to highlight a United Nations (UN) convention on the laws of the sea, which requires the governments of participating nations to respect the “traditional fishing rights” of neighbouring countries within sovereign waters.

Both Denmark and the UK are signatories to the convention. Copenhagen does not want the case to reach the Hague, the Guardian report says.

Copenhagen does not want the case to reach the Hague, the Guardian report says. However, Danish politicians are keen to protect Denmark’s right to fish around Britain, with around 40% of Danish fisherman’s annual take thought to come from the exclusive 200-nautical mile zone surrounding Britain.

Anders Samuelsen, Denmark’s foreign affairs minister, told the Guardian that he hoped the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier will protect the interests of Danish fishing communities in divorce talks with Britain.

“Danish fishermen have historically been fishing across the North Sea,” Samuelsen said. “The common fisheries policy in the EU has regulated this, based on historical rights and preserving our common stocks that don’t follow economic zones.

“Clearly, this is very important for many fishing communities especially along the Jutland coast, and we all put our full support behind the EU’s negotiators to find the best way forward.”

Leave campaigners like Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson sold Brexit as an opportunity for Britain to take back full control of its fishing waters from Brussels. The EU currently requires member states to adhere to the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), which sets quotas for the type of fish each state is allowed to catch.

One of the more bizarre moments in the run-up to the June referendum was when a pro-Leave flotilla, led by Farage, held a protest against the EU’s fishing policies on the River Thames, only to be met by a counter-protest from a boat carrying Remainers, including 80s pop star Sir Bob Geldof.

Niels Wichmann, chief executive of the Danish fisherman’s association, described the notion that Britain can simply take back its waters as “nonsense,” saying: “We have a common sea basin where we can fish. We have always had that.

“The British claim of getting back your waters is a nonsense, because you never had them. Maybe for oil or gas but not for fish.”

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