British fish and chips could be under threat if Vladimir Putin’s Russian government goes ahead with ripping up a longstanding agreement with the UK.

The Russian government is said to be ready to terminate a decades-old deal with the UK that allows British boats to fish in the Barents Sea – leading to an accusation that it is “weaponising food”.

Russian newspaper Izvestiya reported that the country’s agriculture ministry has submitted draft legislation to ban the UK from the key fishing grounds famous for cod and haddock.

It would put an end to an agreement between the then USSR and the UK, signed in 1956, which allows UK ships to fish in the Barents Sea, off the north coast of Norway.

Last year, Sky News reported that up to 40% of cod and haddock consumed in the UK comes from Russia and Russian territory.

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Andrew Crook, president of the UK’s National Federation of Fish Friers, told Sky News that the move comes after two years in which the war in Ukraine has already squeezed businesses in the UK who rely on fish.

He said: “For the last two years we’ve experienced really high prices on fish, which we’re still paying the price for.

“Any business that had savings that’s all been eroded because we’ve been paying a lot for fish – and potatoes.”

A fishing boat returns from a trip to the Barents Sea near Norway

Mr Crook mentioned that the UK had imposed a tariff on Russian-caught whitefish, which had made up around 50% of the whitefish consumed in the UK.

“So we are seeing less Russian fish on the market,” he said.

But the latest move from Russia over the Barents Sea might not have a huge impact on UK chippies as more fish comes from Norwegian waters nearby, Mr Crook said.

“But it’s weaponising food which is not a good thing for the world,” he added.

The draft bill to scrap the agreement has the support of Russia’s government, Izvestiya reports.

“The denunciation of the agreement will not cause serious foreign policy and economic consequences for the Russian Federation,” the newspaper quotes government documents as saying.

A fisherman shows off a cod after a fishing trip to the Arctic Barents Sea
A fisherman shows off a cod after a fishing trip to the Arctic Barents Sea

Russia’s move follows the UK’s decision to deny Russia access to Most Favoured Nation status. Britain has also imposed sanctions on a string of Russian products.

German Zverev, president of the All-Russian Association of Fisheries, told Izvestiya that the 1956 agreement is predominantly one-sided and does not have similar benefits for Russia.

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Discarded heads of hundreds of cod caught in the Arctic Barents Sea
Discarded heads of hundreds of cod caught in the Arctic Barents Sea

It comes as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine, with foreign minister Sergei Lavrov warning of “mounting nuclear risks” at a press conference on Thursday.

He also suggested Ukraine will endure the same fate as Afghanistan, with the US ultimately withdrawing its military support.