english fishermen criminals The NFFO lambasts the UK government for not delivering the post-Brexit fisheries much promised before the UK-EU TCA

The NFFO lambasts the UK government for not delivering the post-Brexit fisheries much promised before the UK-EU TCA

The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) has lambasted the UK government for not delivering the post-Brexit fisheries much promised before the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA).

During the Brexit campaign, the UK fishing industry was promised that by leaving the EU’s much maligned Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), UK fishermen would no longer be subjected to cumbersome regulations but instead have found themselves at a disadvantage with issues such as implementation delays, which the NFFO says is not good enough.

The NFFO says “A fix is urgently needed for implementation delays”.

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They say, “The gulf between what was promised and what was delivered in the December 2020 Trade and Cooperation Agreement left most in the fishing industry angry and frustrated. What was delivered in terms of additional fishing opportunities and control over access was very far from what any self-respecting coastal state might expect.”

Whilst the NFFO feels there is a gulf there, they do feel there are opportunities for the future. They say:

“Nevertheless, escaping the dead clutches of the overcentralised and cumbersome Common Fisheries Policy was regarded by many as a major positive. The legislation that gave UK fisheries ministers powers to manage our own fisheries, the Fisheries Act of 2020, was carefully constructed to avoid the pitfalls of the CFP. Lessons had been learnt and these were carried through into the Joint Fisheries Statement which provides a balanced policy framework for managing our fisheries within the context of devolved and reserved powers. Although a huge amount of work remains to be done to realise the benefit of this new framework, especially through the development and implementation of fisheries management plans, it is a huge opportunity.”

But, the NFFO says, there are also disappointing aspects:

“Against this background it is disappointing, therefore, that the promised agility of the new framework to deliver effective and timely outcomes has been thwarted by the UK’s own legislative systems.”

Bass and Spurdog

The NFFO has severely criticised the length of time UK fishermen have to wait for the implementation of new quota allocations for sea bass and especially this year, for spurdog. They say:

“It is just downright embarrassing that, for the second year, increases in catch limits for bass agreed with the EU within the context of the annual fisheries negotiations, will be implemented by the EU from 01 of January – but those same increases will not be available to UK fishermen until much later in the year. This is because of the UK’s own domestic legislative hurdles that have to be cleared.

“A similar situation applies in relation to spurdog. Following revised scientific advice, spurdog is to be removed from the prohibited species list and a substantial TAC for 2023 and 2024 has been set jointly by the UK and EU. Yet, legislative obstacles mean that access to these quotas for UK fishermen will not be available until May at the earliest. Legal and constitutional processes again undermine the ability to implement a responsive and agile fisheries policy in the UK.”

From Statutory Instrument to Licence Condition

The NFFO say that there is a solution if the Government is willing to listen and work with the fishing industry. They say:

“Much of the unwarranted delay arises from the fact that the legal route to deliver these management systems is through a statutory instrument. These parliamentary hoops require an inappropriate level of parliamentary involvement when the decisions, after all, have already been taken within the context of bilateral fisheries negotiations. In any event, these are mainly technical adjustments that don’t need a high level of parliamentary scrutiny.

“Streamlining the UK’s own route to implement decisions made within the context of bilateral (or trilateral) fisheries negotiations should now become a political priority, but ironically, the main delay in shifting the approval process from statutory instrument to licence condition is in finding sufficient parliamentary time. The Government’s ambition to “sunset” all existing EU law by the end of 2023 is likely to constrain available parliamentary time even further.

“Implementation of policy and management decisions through licence conditions can be done within 24 hours where necessary, rather than the 5 months which the statutory instrument route takes. This is a no-brainer and should be a priority for the Government, which cannot enjoy the tag of overseeing a process even slower than the cumbersome CFP that it replaced.”

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NFFO lambasts UK government over implementation delays

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