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EU sees "significant" damage to fishing firms from no-deal Brexit

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union's Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vela said on Friday the bloc was hoping to maintain reciprocal access to UK fishing waters after Brexit but was also preparing for the alternatives.

Vela told a news conference: "In case of a no-deal Brexit, EU fishing vessels would have to leave UK waters and UK vessels would have to leave EU waters. This would have significant negative economic consequences on the part of the EU fleet, which depends on access to UK waters."

"Obviously, even on the part of the UK fleet fishing in EU waters."

Vela said the bloc's executive, the European Commission, would authorise state aid by EU states to their companies cut off from UK waters. He said the EU and UK could also decide to keep access open to fishing waters even after a no-deal Brexit.

The impact of Brexit on the fishing industry is particularly sensitive for EU states like France, Ireland and Denmark.

Fishermen from the other EU states fish more in the UK waters than the other way around, a point often raised by Brexit backers in Britain.

But the EU says most of the UK's exports of processed fish products go to continental Europe. The bloc wants to allow for both these factors in any fishing deal with the UK after Brexit to increase its leverage where Britain could otherwise have a much stronger hand.

(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Hugh Lawson)