Last week’s negotiations between the EU and the UK achieved nothing on fisheries

In his press conference on Friday after another round of EU/UK negotiations, EU Chief’s Negotiator, Michel Barnier said “We have made no progress on fisheries.”

After Friday, the issue of fishing rights in the post-Brexit negotiations between the EU and the UK has not so much hit a stumbling block but the wall.

In the press conference Mr Barnier continued “On this essential topic, the UK has not put forward a legal text.

“We have made no tangible progress despite the Political Declaration stating that we should make our best endeavours to reach an agreement by July. This is necessary to provide sufficient clarity for EU and UK fishermen, and also for all businesses linked to fisheries.

“The EU will not agree to any future economic partnership that does not include a balanced, sustainable and long-term solution on fisheries. That should be crystal clear to the UK.”

On the issue David Frost, EU Adviser to the British Prime Minister said “We are ready to work to agree a fisheries agreement which reflects our rights under international law to control our own waters, & provides for annual negotiations over access based on scientific principles. We won’t agree to continuing the Common Fisheries Policy.”

The UK believes the only text on the table in regards to the future of fisheries should be the Fisheries Bill that is working its way through Westminster and they do not want any Fisheries Deal between the blocs attached to a Free Trade Agreement as the EU are proposing.

The EU have decided to negotiate a reciprocal deal for fisheries attached to a Free Trade Deal. The EU desires access to UK waters at the same level without interruption as they have had under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) but the British say that the CFP is a dead policy to them after 31 January 2020.

Barnier and Co. are under pressure to preserve the CFP deal as without UK waters, the EU fishing fleet, which consists of vessels from mainly the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Denmark, France, Portugal and Spain will lose-out to the best fishing grounds in Europe.

A UK Government spokesperson has said “On fisheries, the EU’s mandate appears to require us to accept a continuance of the current quotas agreed under the Common Fisheries Policy. We will only be able to make progress here on the basis of the reality that the UK will have the right to control access to its waters at the end of this year.

“We now need to move forward in a constructive fashion. The UK remains committed to a deal with a Free Trade Agreement at its core. We look forward to negotiating constructively in the next Round beginning on 11 May and to finding a balanced overall solution which reflects the political realities on both sides.”

The Fisheries Bill proposes to allow the licencing of boats from the EU fleet but the UK says the licences will only be granted on condition of remote electronic monitoring, an issue which has raised controversy across all fishing fleets.

With time running out the EU is asking the UK if they are willing to extend the transition period deadline.

“Will we decide or not, before that date (30 June 2020), and by joint decision with the British, to extend the transition period, according to the possibility that is foreseen in the Withdrawal Agreement?” asked Barnier in his speech but last week the British EU Adviser reiterated that there will be no deadline extension for the “economic Brexit”.

In his tweet David Frost said “As we prepare for the next Rounds of negotiations, I want to reiterate the Government’s position on the transition period created following our withdrawal from the EU. Transition ends on 31 December this year.We will not ask to extend it. If the EU asks we will say no.

“Extending would simply prolong negotiations, create even more uncertainty, leave us liable to pay more to the EU in future, and keep us bound by evolving EU laws at a time when we need to control our own affairs. In short, it is not in the UK’s interest to extend.”

The UK is no longer an EU Member State and therefore is no longer subject to EU rules on negotiations, whereas the EU wants the UK to remain subject to Member State rules and regulations without the UK having a veto or mandate.

It is clear that both sides are still on different pages and it is becoming more tense as the situation gets bogged down with the lack of common ground. The number of negotiations rounds are decreasing and with the COVID-19 crisis not looking set to end soon, the lack of face-to-face negotiations could put the EU fishing industry in a volatile situation.

By Editor

“We have made no progress on fisheries” says EU Chief Negotiator

by editor time to read: 7 min
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