IT WOULD seem even the existential threat posed by coronavirus cannot stop Mr Drax from pursuing the most damaging Brexit possible. With a worldwide recession pending, he wishes the UK to jettison half its trade agreements. Along with rest of the economy, a no-deal outcome would decimate the fishing industry.

Around 65% of fish caught in the North Atlantic, which all contain all British grounds, and some EU grounds, are landed by British boats. Some EU quota stocks are also landed at British ports. The vast majority of fish are bought by EU countries. Most of the catch are by large trawlers, both British and EU, many having been purchased via EU matched funding. This is available to all EU fisherman. The majority of the British quota is via these large modern boats. The remainder is caught by hundreds of smaller boats. In a more challenging market, without the economies of scale, these will be hit hardest.

The rebuilding of fish stocks is a welcome acknowledgement of past over -fishing and the need for reform. Given the likely economic downturn, it is almost certain to be pushed into the background. A set aside scheme, whereby boats are paid to rest stocks - similar to the EU agriculture model - would be an alternative.

The government has had three years to come up with a scheme to support the fishing industry.

As the other supposed benefits of Brexit have been exposed as fantasy, Brexiters have latched on to the fishing issue in desperation.

The current crisis has prevented any meaningful discussion of a trade deal vital to the UK's future prosperity. The need for more time is blindingly obvious. We have until the end of June to extend the deadline and allow time to come to an agreement that at least limits the damage.

M. Hoxey

Dorchester Road