Exclusive: Britain could declare Brexit ‘water wars’ in response to Brussels’ blockade on shellfish

The import of European mineral water and several food products into Britain could be restricted under retaliatory measures being considered by ministers over Brussels’ refusal to end its blockade on UK shellfish.

The Telegraph can disclose that ministers are looking at proposals dubbed “Water Wars” which could see the UK end a number of continuity arrangements it has agreed with the EU.

Senior Government sources pointed to potential restrictions on the import of mineral water and seed potatoes, the latter of which the EU has secured a temporary agreement on until the end of June.

In a warning shot to Brussels, a Government source said: “There is thought being given to where we can leverage in other areas. We have continuity arrangements… we can stop these which means they won’t be able to sell their produce here.”

The discussions over tit-for-tat measures began earlier this month after the European Commission announced that a ban on the export of live oysters, clams, scallops and mussels from Britain’s class B waters would become permanent because it is now listed as a third country.

It can now be disclosed that ministers have escalated contingency planning after Stella Kyriakides, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, snubbed a request to meet the Environment Secretary George Eustice to try and resolve the row.

Mr Johnson is said to be personally angered by the move, which took ministers by surprise and which officials claim contradicted earlier assurances they had been given by the Commission.

On Saturday night, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs announced it would now widen the eligibility of the £23m support package it has announced for the fishing industry, in order to help fishermen and shellfish exporters affected by the ban.

The grants, which will begin in March, will cover three months of average fixed costs, and will be open to certain boats and shellfish exporters who have been hit by falling demand domestically during lockdown and disruption in exporting to the EU.