Newlyn Fish Market - boats due to land.

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

EU is prepared to drop its "maximalist" approach to fisheries

Tony Connelly reports on the sector which is proving a key stumbling block in the future relationship negotiations (remember, the EU has said if there's no fisheries deal, there's no free trade deal. Tony is RTÉ's European Editor.

Here is his Twitter thread on the matter in full:

1/ The issue is over the UK's insistence that the methodology known as Zonal Attachment should replace the existing quota share out system, known as Relative Stability...

2/ Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, is holding a video conference with the fish ministers of the Group of Eight fishing member states, including Ireland. Lithuania, Poland and Portugal will join...

3/ My understanding is that EU fish ministers will bluntly tell Mr Barnier that he must stick to the mandate which member states gave him at the outset, namely that EU vessels should continue to enjoy the same access to UK waters as they did under the Common Fisheries Policy...

4/ As a reminder, the EU's negotiating mandate says the final deal should “build on existing reciprocal access conditions, [and] quota shares…” and that there should be “continued reciprocal access, for all relevant species, by [European] Union and United Kingdom vessels"…

5/ On May 15, Barnier told a news conference there had been some movement on fisheries. Zonal Attachment was "one element" in a possible solution, he said, but not the "only element". Some saw this as a signal the EU was going to compromise on the issue...

6/ Zonal Attachment is devilishly complicated, but it basically means using deeper data to work out where fish species live, breed, spawn etc. Essentially, the UK believes that that methodology would rightfully restore much more quota to UK vessels in British waters...

7/ Some member states regard this as a "quota grab" dressed up as science. Zonal Attachment, says one source, is at play in the EU's ongoing discussions with independent coastal states (which the UK will become) over mackerel, but it is taking years...

8/ Furthermore, says the source, the science isn't there to provide the kind of data the UK is referring to, and that in any case, the EU and UK share over 100 stocks. So if it has taken years for mackerel, then imagine how long it will take for an entire fishing deal...

9/ However, the UK is insisting on it...
10/ It's understood that in the interim between Barnier's tentative offer on May 15, the mood among member states has hardened, not least because of David Frost's letter of May 19, seen by many has combative...

11/ It's worth remembering that EU member states largely accepted the draft negotiating mandate drawn up by the European Commission in January. However, they made the language on fisheries tougher - something I'm told they will remind the EU's chief negotiator this afternoon...

12/ Adding to the pressure, the European Parliament Fisheries Committee has adopted a resolution "no comprehensive agreement can be concluded between the EU and the UK if it does not include a complete, balanced and long-term fisheries agreement...

13/ "allowing the continuation under optimal conditions of access to waters, resources and markets of the parties concerned"...

Tony is RTÉ's European Editor and Deputy Foreign Editor Colm Ó Mongáin look at what Brexit business is squeezed into the EU Summit in Brussels - listen here they present a series of podcasts on Brexit from an Irish perspective.