Sunday, 11 October 2020

Brexit, Europe and the CFP - Why the UK won't back down on fisheries.

Barrie Deas Chief Executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations Why the UK won’t back down on fisheries

Speculation is rife about a deal on fisheries that would unlock a wider UK/EU trade and partnership agreement.

The issue has now come down to the essentials: whether the EU will move a sufficient distance on quota shares that will allow the UK to grant a level of access to UK waters and to sign a deal. Both sides are politically committed to finding an agreement but the distance between the parties is vast. Conventional wisdom would suggest a split the difference approach could resolve the matter but that would be to miss the essential point.

Quantum and Principle

For the EU this about quantum – how much access their vessels will have to fish in UK waters and how much of their advantage on quota shares can be retained. For the UK it is about quantum too – but it is also about principle – and that is why I do not believe that the UK will back down on fisheries.

The principle involved is the UK’s unhampered ability to act as an independent coastal state in line with its rights and responsibilities under international law, after the end of the transition period. The UK government is acutely aware that it cannot surrender those rights without having to face the question from the people who voted to leave in the referendum: “What was Brexit for?”

Change is Coming

Undoubtedly, the change that will come – with or without a framework fisheries agreement - will involve a huge challenge for the EU fleets. The scale of that change is a reflection of the scale of the advantage that those fleets have had over 40 years, and to what extent the Common Fisheries Policy denied the UK the benefits of its status as an independent coastal state.

President Macron faces an uncomfortable political backwash ahead of an election year if he surrenders on fisheries; but the signs of fissures in the EU camp are already there - in comments made in Berlin - and in rising tensions between the Commission and the five member states who benefit from the current arrangements. The rhetoric is still there but the fishing five are increasingly isolated.

Litmus test

There is a reason that the UK Prime Minister, in his recent call with Commission, underlined the importance of fishing. It is because fishing is an immediate litmus test for Brexit. What Brexit means for the UK’s trade relations with the EU and with the rest of the world won’t be fully known for years – if not decades. We will know, however, if there has been a good or bad deal, or no-deal, on fisheries by the end of this year. Fishing has a political immediacy. It also goes to the heart of the vision of the UK as an independent country outside the EU. That is why I do not believe that we will see a repeat of the 1970s when fishing was considered expendable.

Everything is still in play. The talks continue, and as long as they do, people will speculate.

The NFFO and the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation have made clear what they would consider an acceptable deal with the EU. The final outcome, if there is to be an agreement, will be judged against those criteria and against the fisheries agreement recently signed between the UK and Norway – a model of how two coastal states should cooperate together on the sustainable management of shared stocks.

Paul Trebilcok, chief executive of the CFPO has this to say:

As summer fades over the horizon and the crisp autumnal months begin to settle in, we take this transitional moment as an opportunity to take our busy Fathom schedule back to the quayside and touch base with the CFPO and our co-host Paul Trebilcock, to reflect and forecast.

We answer an array of fishermen's questions that have been bouncing around the quayside in recent weeks, focusing primarily on the turbulent political climate. As key changes such as the Fisheries Bill are seemingly being left down to the wire, our listeners would not be blamed for having questions about the future.

Wondering how Brexit is really going to pan out for the industry? Questioning what the three year transition period will look like? Want to know whether there is room for new measures to help maintain sustainable fish stocks? Curious about potential and emerging fisheries, such as Bluefin Tuna in the southwest? Speculating on what the industry might look like in 20 years? You are not alone.

Tune in as we have a crack at answering some of your burning industry-specific questions - it’s time for a reality check!

By way of contrast, Dennis McShane (ex-MEP)  writing in the New European has another take on how the negotiations between the UK and EU will unfold and why:

Altogether he cites 11 reasons why why Boris Johnson will be bounced into securing a Brexit dealthis is so including this on fishing:    

3) On fishing some live and let fish compromise is necessary before Britain launches an unwinnable fish war with the continent. The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is no longer the racket it was when Britain joined the EEC in 1972. It is now mainly about conserving fish stocks which is as important to British fishing skippers as their continental comrades.

The British proposal for a three-year continuation of the existing status quo is a start is already a move away from previous demands that all non-UK fishing boats are expelled from UK waters. Lengthen that with a review clause and a guarantee that anything landed in the UK will have automatic tariff and quota free access to European markets and we might get somewhere.

You may also want to watch: More videos for you There is room for big compromise though Macron needs something. There are twice the number of French working in fishing boats than UK (where 30% of on board trawler workers are EU citizens and 90% of workers preparing landed fish). A long lead in transition could sweeten the pill.

and this on cross-channel transport

4) There is a real panic among road hauliers that there will be major blockages in Kent where 10,000 lorries arrive every day bringing 85 % of fresh fruit and veg and 60 % of all bacon, sausages and ham we eat. The other strong pro-Brexit man in the government, Michael Gove has publicly talked of queues of 7,000 lorries. Very few of the estimated 50-60,000 customs agents needed to fill in forms have been hired. I went to speak at a protest meeting of a giant site for a major lorry park on edge of Ashford to take up to 5,000 lorries with testosterone charged drivers hanging around waiting to clear customs. This is not popular in Tory shires.

You  can read the full text and all 11 reasons he cites here: