The AGRIFISH Council meeting agreed that a fisheries contingency plan was needed in case of a no deal scenario
The first day of the two-day AGRIFISH Council ended last night at the Justus Lipsius building in Brussels where the meeting was Chaired by Ricardo Serrão Santos, Minister of the Sea of Portugal and Maria do Céu Antunes Minister for Agriculture of Portugal.
One of the first items on the Council’s agenda for discussion was the fixing of fishing opportunities for 2021, along with deep-sea stocks for 2021 and 2022.
The Council meeting again took place against the backdrop of Brexit uncertainty that has not lifted even with the EU and the UK preliminary Trade and Cooperation Agreement signed back on 24 December 2020. If anything, the scenario against a deal being reached deepens further with the UK breaking the Northern Ireland Protocol by extending the grace period for post-Brexit supermarket agri-food movements from the rest of the UK to Northern Ireland until October.
This has left a feeling of distrust between the EU and the UK Government which many fears is a breach that will not be mended.
Other commentators believe that British PM Boris Johnson is looking to break the TCA and will blame the EU for the collapse of the agreement to force his way back to the talks table to negotiate a better deal for the UK, something realistically the EU will not bend to.
This uncertainty has led to Ministers from the remaining 27 Member States to agree that a contingency plan for EU fisheries was required in the event of a UK crash out, which is now only a matter of days away.
A press release following the end of the Council meeting said:
“Ministers took stock of the EU-UK consultations on fixing the fishing opportunities for 2021, and for deep-sea stocks for 2021 and 2022. Given the possibility that the two parties might not reach an agreement by the end of March (when the provisional and limited fishing opportunities expire), ministers agreed that a contingency plan was needed, in order to extend the provisional and limited quotas beyond 31 March and until a permanent EU-UK agreement is in place. The presidency will conduct informal trilateral meetings through the evening and will present a compromise proposal during the second day of the Agrifish Council (23 March).
“Ministers also expressed their satisfaction for the informal conclusion of the EU-Norway and EU-Norway-UK consultations for setting definite fishing opportunities in the North Sea and in areas of Skagerrak and Kattegat for 2021.”
By Oliver McBride