Monday, 19 March 2018

Stop Press! NFFO, SFF and CFPO reaction to Brexit Transition arrangements.

After agreeing on the Brexit transition arrangements there will be many fishermen up and down the length of the UK who find it hard to see what David Davis has to smile about!

Cornwall Fish Producers Organisation's considered response in light of the news does nothing to gladden the hearts of south west fishermen who, like fishermen the length and breadth of the UK signed up for Brexit because Michael Gove, Fisheries Minister and MP for Camborne Redruth, George Eustice and other Tory MPs led us to believe that they would, "Take back control"

“We are still trying to obtain the full picture of what has been or may have been agreed in Brussels. However, on the face of it, it appears that the betrayal that was feared by many has occurred, status quo on fisheries is to be maintained during transition.

Even though the UK is leaving EU and CFP at end of March 2019 the UK Government thinks it is OK to hand back fisheries management to the EU straight away - UK fishermen will still in effect be managed by the discredited CFP and EU regulations until the end of 2021 at the earliest. The danger with agreeing to the EU’s terms is that we would be a coastal state in name only for that period.

To make matters even worse the UK has had to surrendered its vote and its place at the EU negotiating table, a condescending line that UK is to be allowed consultation rights in fisheries decision-making and when EU engages in international fora and negotiations has been cynically inserted to allow some attempt at justification.

Ultimately the fear is that if this approach is adopted i.e. making concessions as part of transitional arrangements it can be expected that similar pressures (and outcomes) will apply when it comes to negotiations later this year on the UK’s long term relationship with the EU. The EU will want to maintain the asymmetric and exploitative relationship that currently exists –it appears that the EU has already secured this for the duration of the transition period without much effort or political capital expended!

Mr. Gove and Mr. Eustice have some explaining to do to fishermen around the UK given the expectations they had raised.”

(Statement from the CFPO March 19th 2018)

Then we have;

Bertie Armstrong, CEO of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation:

‘Far short of an acceptable deal’ – SFF on interim Brexit agreement
Reacting to the agreement for fishing during the implementation period, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation Bertie Armstrong said:

“This falls far short of an acceptable deal. We will leave the EU and leave the CFP, but hand back sovereignty over our seas a few seconds later. Our fishing communities’ fortunes will still be subject to the whim and largesse of the EU for another two years.

“Put simply, we do not trust them to look after us. So we issue this warning to the EU: be careful what you do or the consequences later will be severe. To our politicians we say this: some have tried to secure a better deal but our governments have let us down.

“As a consequence, we expect a written, cast iron guarantee that after the implementation period, sovereignty will mean sovereignty and we will not enter into any deal which gives any other nation or the EU continued rights of access or quota other than those negotiated as part of the annual Coastal States negotiations.”

Then we hear from the NFFO:

The NFFO assesses the recent developments in Brussels

1. We are still trying to obtain the full picture of what has been or may have been agreed in Brussels

2. There will be a lot of concern throughout the fishing industry about what seems to be emerging.

3. We were led to believe that the UK would be as an independent coastal state from March 2019. The Prime Minister told us that only a fortnight ago.

4. This timetable and perhaps much else has been conceded as part of the transition.

5. In fact, under international law the UK will be an independent coastal state from March. But we will immediately tie ourselves into an arrangement with the EU that is worse that we had before – as the UK will not have a seat at the table when the quotas are decided.

6. The UK is to be “consulted” by the EU on setting quotas during the transition period but it is not clear what this would mean:

⦁ Notional “cosmetic” consultation or

⦁ Meaningful participation amounting to agreement (like EU/Norway annual agreement which are styled as consultations)

7. In the meantime the UK’s asymmetrical relationship with the EU on fisheries continues.

8. The UK’s central problem with the CFP has been that EU vessels, in value terms takes 4 times as much out of UK waters as our vessels take out of EU waters. That imbalance – essentially an exploitative relationship - will continue during the transition.

9. The Prime Minister told us that UK would renegotiate quota shares and control access over who fishes in UK waters, and under what conditions. That promise is on hold now and may never materialise.

10. This is being presented as tactical concession that will not prejudice our longer term aims. But it has all the hallmarks of a capitulation.

11. The danger with agreeing to the EU’s terms is that we would be a coastal state in name only

12. But there is also danger in making concessions as part of transitional arrangements because similar pressures will apply when it comes to negotiations, later this year, on the UK’s long term relationship with the EU. The EU, not unnaturally will want to maintain the asymmetric and exploitative relationship that currently exists.

13. In the immediate future, sticking to the existing quota shares (relative stability) during the transition period will cause serious difficulties when the EU landing obligation when it comes fully into force on 1st January 2019.

UK’s Negotiating Position

⦁ UK as an independent coastal state
⦁ Rebalancing of quotas to reflect the resources in our waters
⦁ Control over who fishes in UK waters

EU Negotiating Position

  • Status quota on quota shares and access arrangements
  • UK has no voting rights during transition
  • All CFP rules continue to apply (including new ones over which the UK has no say)

Just over two weeks ago (as mentioned by the NFFO) Teresa May and her ministers were predicting a very different outcome for the industry. This what the Prime Minister said in her Mansion House statement:

First Gove, now Teresa May says the words the fishing industry wants to hear in her Mansion House speech today as an icy wind blasts through the open doors of Newlyn fish market.

Fishing industry transcripts:

"The EU itself is rightly taking a tailored approach in what it is seeking with the UK. For example, on fisheries, the Commission has been clear that no precedents exist for the sort of access it wants from the UK.
We are also leaving the Common Fisheries Policy."

"The UK will regain control over our domestic fisheries management rules and access to our waters.But as part of our economic partnership we will want to continue to work together to manage shared stocks in a sustainable way and to agree reciprocal access to waters and a fairer allocation of fishing opportunities for the UK fishing industry. 
Annotated by Alex BarkerThis is an important promise for the Brexit supporting fishing community. The UK’s share of the catch in UK waters was set sometime in the early 1980s and has barely changed since. Should Britain press hard on this point, the EU may say it will restrict its ability to sell fish products into the EU market. And we will also want to ensure open markets for each other’s products. 
Just as our partnership in goods needs to be deeper than any other Free Trade Agreement, so in services we have the opportunity to break new ground with a broader agreement than ever before. 
We recognise that certain aspects of trade in services are intrinsically linked to the single market and therefore our market access in these areas will need to be different. But we should only allow new barriers to be introduced where absolutely necessary."

Time will tell if the industry has been traded off against much bigger trading assets - again. If ever there was a time for the industry to come together and take control to shape its future it is now.