British trawler fleet. (Photo: Stock File)
UK backs down on post-Brexit instant fisheries control plans
Monday, March 19, 2018, 23:50 (GMT + 9)
Given that the European Union (EU) is prepared to allow the United Kingdom a say in the negotiations on setting the allowable catch for the EU fleet even after the formal departure date of March 29, 2019, the British have backed down on their plans to repatriate control of fisheries.
These plans had been at the heart of UK environment secretary Michael Gove’s post-Brexit strategy but he was forced to accept some stability during the transition, The Guardian informed.
As a result, Britain’s share of the total allowable catches — which has been fixed for decades under the “relative stability” quota arrangement — will remain exactly the same during the post-Brexit transition period.
As negotiations are still in force, secretary Gove has demanded a shorter transition period for fishing of just nine or 10 months and teamed up with Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, to underline their joint determination to repatriate controls immediately.
“We want the UK to become an independent coastal state, negotiating access annually with our neighbours,” they said. “During the implementation period, we will ensure that British fishermen’s interests are properly safeguarded.”
Sources close to the cabinet minister accept that the issue cannot be allowed to derail the deal on transition, which is part of the withdrawal agreement due to be signed off at the end of the week. Ministers recognise the need for certainty for business and the economy.
But accepting the EU position on fisheries appears to be another significant concession by the Brexit secretary, David Davis. He has already acknowledged that he can live with the EU’s preferred date for the end of the transition period, in December 2020, rather than running on until March 2021 as Theresa May proposed last year.
Brussels offered the UK further assurances that they would be consulted when the EU member states set the total catch allowed for individual species in British waters. The draft proposal says the EU would “give the opportunity to the UK to provide comments”.
An additional reference in the draft to the so-called “relative stability” principle — which has kept share of fish given to EU countries stable for 30 or more years — also ensures a degree of continuity for all sides during the transition. While Britain had sought to give UK fishermen a bigger share of the catch, France had at the same time pushed for the EU to increase its share relative to Britain.
Controlling access to UK waters is a key leverage point for Britain in talks on a future trade deal. France, the Netherlands and Denmark are leading a group of countries determined to make sure their politically powerful fishing industries do not suffer after the post- Brexit transition period ends.