Why Dutch fishermen want to continue working in British waters under any new Brexit trade agreement

  • Video report and words by ITV News Correspondent Rupert Evelyn

"We have fished there [UK waters] for the last 400 years and we want to continue doing so for the next 400 years.

"We don’t want give up one kilo," says Diek Parlevliet, chairman of the Dutch Fish Marketing Board.

As the UK and the EU aim to settle a fisheries deal, it’s clear the Dutch are not in a charitable mood. At best they might maintain the status quo and continue fishing in UK waters - at worst they fear access will be denied or limited and they will lose out.

Visting the Dutch port of Den Helder it’s clear they’re nervous.

Guido Betsema has spent 35 years at sea. He fishes for sole and plaice, spending 80 per cent of his time in UK waters.

"I’m afraid that the UK say: "Stop. No fishing in our waters.'"

He’d prefer nothing to change, arguing that everyone in both the UK and EU is earning a living at the moment and there is no need to rock the boat.

British fishermen are concerned they made be ignored in trade talks. Credit: ITV News

We meet skipper, Cor Vonk, with his crew as they are doing maintenance on his trawler.

His son is helping with the painting, a reminder that although there are big businesses running fisheries; much of the trawling is done on family-owned vessels.

What would he say if he had a direct line to the UK PM?

"Boris think about the Dutch, think about our families, it’s not a game we are talking about people."

Dutch fishermen want Britain to think about them during talks. Credit: ITV News

Although the UK will get control over it’s territorial waters, Cor Vonk believes access is about more than a line in the sea: "Fish don’t have a border, fish is for everybody."

Fishing is a tiny industry that would barely dent UK finances if it ceased to exist - and fishermen in the UK are worried they will be traded away by the politicians for more valuable industries.

What they want is a fairer share of the fish and anything other than would be unacceptable to the British fleet.

"We have had to give to our European friends for the last 30 years, so maybe it’s their turn now to give a little bit back," says Barry Young from the Brixham Trawler Agents.

"We do understand there will be some negotiations but lets not do it so the UK fishing industry suffers once again and we are sold down the river like a pilchard."

The problem is the Dutch, French & Spanish don’t want to relinquish anything. I asked Gerard Van Balsfoort, President of the Pelagic Freezer Trawler Association, who represents EU vessels, whether he was willing to concede any ground, his answer was unequivocal: "No, we are not, we have a very simple message - don’t change the current systems."