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Huge EU tantrum as Brexit allows UK to stop Europe hoovering up our eels

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Brussels has reacted with fury to Britain’s decision to ban the fishing of sand eels, and the two sides now look set for a major dispute.

The UK insists it is using its hard-won Brexit freedoms to protect its environment and sea life from overfishing.

The European Union, however, claims the move will profoundly affect its fishing sector and endanger jobs.

Brussels has accused the UK of breaching the terms of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) signed after Brexit, and has triggered a legal challenge.

Rishi Sunak‘s Government announced a ban in January on catching sand eels on Dogger Bank in the North Sea, so as to protect the area’s populations of puffins and kittiwakes, which feed on the fish.

The move caused outrage among Danish and Swedish fishermen, whose governments lobbied Eurocrats to take action against Britain.

Now, the EU has gone on the attack as it attempts to force the UK into a humiliating U-turn.

Announcing its legal action, Virginijus Sinkevičius, the EU Commissioner for the Environment, said the UK’s “permanent closure of the sand-eel fishery deprives EU vessels from fishing opportunities”.

He argued the ban “impinges on basic commitments under the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement.”

“Healthy sand-eel stocks are not just vital for the delicate balance of our marine ecosystems, but also for the livelihoods of our fishers,” he added.

Brexiteers reacted with glee to the news, pointing out that the UK was simply taking swift action to protect its interests, which it couldn’t have done while still a member of the EU.

Under EU rules, the UK would have had to enter lengthy negotiations under the Commons Fisheries Policy before any decision could be made – and would have faced outright hostility from other member states.

Britain and the EU have until May 16 to work out their differences, whereafter the Commission can take the dispute to a resolution panel for adjudication.

If the UK is found in breach of the Brexit trade deal and refuses to comply with the ruling, then Brussels can legally slap tariffs on British exports to the continent.

The RSPB slammed the EU for its “outrageous” move, accusing Brussels of kicking “the future of beautiful birds like our much-loved Puffins around like a political football.”

Katie-jo Luxton, the organisation’s director of conservation, said 62 percent of seabird species were in decline across the UK.

She told Politico: “While some EU countries seem hell-bent on hoovering up sand-eels on an industrial scale to feed to livestock, we believe they should be restoring marine ecosystems and nourishing baby Pufflings.”

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