How British is the fish in your traditional fish supper? Norway demands full-access to the UK seafood market.
The government in Norway has demanded full-access to the UK markets for their seafood exports in their future realtionship negotiations with Westminster.
The Norwegian government has expressed their desire to negotiate a comprehensive free trade agreement with the British would earn Norway billions of kroner in goods and services every year. The government there sees the UK market as one with huge potential but there could be a downside for British based fishers.
Today, Norwegian seafood exporters do not have free trade into the EU, but must comply with various quotas and tariffs, an arrangement that the UK enjoys with Norway for the moment.
Free access for Norwegian seafood to the British market would have a major impact on the flow of Norwegian seafood in Europe. In particular, the flow of goods will change if the United Kingdom and the EU also do not agree on free market access for seafood. Such an agreement probably presupposes that the EU drops requirements for quota rights in the North Sea and in the British fisheries sector. If this is the outcome, it could mean greater direct exports between Norway and the United Kingdom.
In 2018, the United Kingdom imported unprocessed white fish and salmon worth NOK 9.4 billion (£809 million). Of this unprocessed product, Norwegian fish amounted to NOK 3 billion (£258 million).
One of the examples of this is haddock.
During a seminar at the Skreife Festival at Myre in February, the Norwegian Seafood Council’s analyst, Ingrid Kristine Pettersen, presented an analysis of the flow of goods for haddock products from Norway.
The analysis, carried out by the agency Contali on behalf of the Seafood Council, showed that only 66 percent of Norwegian haddock that eventually ended up on the British market was directly exported from Norway to the United Kingdom.
“It is in the UK, USA and France that most of the haddock is consumed. The countries account for 60 to 70 percent of the total market. For Norwegian-caught haddock, half ends up in the UK,” Pettersen said during the seminar.
China accounts for 65 percent of all haddock processing worldwide.
If a free trade agreement between the two nations should be ratified by the UK, it would depend on a number of factors.
An important reason why many coastal communities in England supported a Brexit was the promise that British fishermen would have greater control over their own waters if the UK leaves the EU.
Both Norway and the United Kingdom have as a starting point a negotiating principle where access to natural resources in the form of fish quotas and market access to seafood must be kept separate in such negotiations.
But the EU has repeatedly stated that these things must be seen in context. The Norwegians see the EU fleet remaining in UK waters as a stumbling block to clinching the deal. They believe that to prevent other countries from leaving the trade bloc, it is unlikely that the EU will give up much in future negotiations with post-Brexit Britain.
They see that a no-deal Brexit could be an opportunity for Norway to gain greater access to the UK seafood market because a no-deal Brexit would mean the EU will impose tariffs on fish products between the remaining EU Member States and the UK, of up to 12 per cent according to current tariffs from the World Trade Organization (WHO).
The British are thus strongly opposed to the EU’s desire to exchange market access to the internal market, to fishing quotas outside the British Isles.
In turn, the Norwegians being granted full-access to the UK seafood market and the imposition of tariffs on seafood between the UK and the EU could be problematic for British fishermen.
Without ready, tariff-free access to the EU markets that the seafood industry currently enjoys, the UK fleet would see increased costs for shipping their product abroad, along with lower fish prices whilst demand for their product on the domestic market could dry-up as Norway supplies even more fish to the home-market.
The Norwegians believe there is a plus side for the fish processing industry in the UK if there is full-access for their seafood. Free market access for seafood between Norway and the United Kingdom would, they believe, lead to existing processing jobs in Denmark, Poland and other EU countries being moved to Norway and the United Kingdom.
In addition, it is expected that an agreement between Norway and the United Kingdom in the longer term may lead to new negotiations on third country quotas between Norway and the EU as the United Kingdom withdraws from the European market. The Norwegians believe that all common sense should indicate that the quotas of the EU should be reconsidered.
The United Kingdom also has a need to protect its own fishing industry, if the ambitions to build-up both the fleet and the fish stocks around its coast are to succeed.
With the EU demanding an agreement on fisheries before any other agreements is put in place on a free trade agreement between the two blocs, the future of both sets of agreements is unclear presently.