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President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. (Photo: Factio popularis Europaea/CC BY 2.0)

Juncker proposes quota exchange for UK product access to EU

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Saturday, September 30, 2017, 01:20 (GMT + 9)

Time is running but, although the United Kingdom will no longer be part of the European Union on March 29, 2019, there has been no progress in the Brexit negotiations. And the uncertainty is present in a fishing sector that ignores whether it will be able to access British waters (from Europe and the Southern Cone), for what species and under what conditions.

Of all the questions expressed to the European Commission by MEPs about the future of fisheries after Brexit, only one has been answered by the EU Government. It has been done by its president, Jean-Claude Juncker, and almost in a telegraphic way. In a communication dated September, the Luxembourg official proposes to offer London access of its products to the EU in exchange for fishing quotas in the waters of Gran Sol and The Falkland Islands.

Juncker defends the need to "guarantee access to water, management of joint stocks and access to markets" given the great "interdependence" of the European Union and the United Kingdom.

"An agreement on these various aspects is of mutual interest." The politician in part shares what was expressed by the British minister Michael Gove, who has already defended in Parliament - as it was advanced by FARO - an agreement in the style of Norway or the Faeroes to guarantee that their fishery products are commercialized in the continent without penalties, which would imply the access of foreign ships to its waters. But with a distribution of quotas based on their own scientific criteria, with which the fishing opportunities would be distributed year by year.

It is an option that does seem appealing to the Galician fishing sector, with 140 vessels that depend completely on British waters, because it does not offer stability.

"It is not a good model, every year there are changes, you are always with the sword of Damocles on top." To Iván López, chair of the Long-Distance Fleet Advisory Council (LDAC), the EU must value the market access of British products in the continent to achieve the best possible agreement.

Although Mr Juncker's comments are brief, in response to a parliamentary question from the Danish MEP Jens Rhode, the President of the Commission tried to reduce one of the fears of the fleet, and it is that fishing becomes an accessory issue during the negotiations. "The Commission considers this a priority to protect the twenty-seven countries’ interests."

The pressure of the fleet to London is intense, and it is divided between those who bet to leave out all the ships having foreign flags and those that agree to let them fish in its waters, but with many limitations. This is the case of the Fishing for Leave group, which takes for granted that "after Brexit we will be like Norway or the Faroese". Their belligerence is well-known in the sector and they intend that non-British ships are left with only 30 per cent of fishing opportunities to "renew a multi-million dollar industry and be as sustainable and successful as Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands." But three quarters of its fishery products are exported to EU countries, so in the industry they propose to use this asset to solve the Brexit crossroads in the best way.

Source: Lara Graña / Faro de Vigo

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