EU Negotiating Mandate and NFFO Comment

26th February 2020 in Brexit

The EU’s negotiating mandate for the future relationship with the UK has been published. It is reproduced below, along with an NFFO commentary. The negotiations will begin in early March.

EU Negotiating Mandate and NFFO Comment

12. FISHERIES

86. The envisaged partnership should include, in its economic part, provisions on fisheries setting out a framework for the management of shared fish stocks, as well as the conditions on access to waters and resources and common technical and conservation measures. It should secure continued responsible fisheries that ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable exploitation of marine biological resources, in line with the relevant principles under international and Union law, notably those underpinning the Common Fisheries Policy as laid down in Regulation (EU) No 1380/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013. The provisions on fisheries should be underpinned by effective management and supervision, and dispute settlement and enforcement arrangements, including appropriate remedies.

NFFO: The UK will have no difficulties in committing to the principles of responsible fishing and sustainable fisheries management. Any expectation from the text that the UK would have to shadow every future requirement of the Common Fisheries Policy, would be to deny the UK the sovereignty over the management of the fisheries in its waters, granted by its new legal status as an independent coastal state. The UK could not possibly accept such a provision in any circumstances.

87. The provisions on fisheries should encompass cooperation on the development of measures for the sustainable exploitation and conservation of resources, including avoiding wasteful practises such as discarding. Such measures should be non-discriminatory and follow a science-based approach aligned to the objective of achieving maximum sustainable yield for concerned stocks. The envisaged partnership should include provisions for collaboration in data collection and research.

NFFO: The Fisheries Bill currently passing through Parliament, includes a range of important objectives. These include managing stocks to achieve maximum sustainable yield on the basis of scientific advice, in balance with other important objectives, including one on climate change and another on minimising discards.

88. Besides the cooperation on conservation, management and regulation, the objective of the provisions on fisheries should be to uphold Union fishing activities. In particular, it should aim to avoid economic dislocation for Union fishermen that have been engaged in fishing activities in the United Kingdom waters.

NFFO: Quota shares are inescapably a zero-sum game, as the UK has learnt to its cost over 40 years. Rebalancing those shares to reflect the resources located in UK waters can be expected to have an impact for EU fleets. It is the EU’s responsibility to make provision for adequate mitigation measures.

89. To reach this objective, the provisions on fisheries should uphold existing reciprocal access conditions, quota shares and the traditional activity of the Union fleet, and therefore:

– uphold continued reciprocal access, for all relevant species, by Union and United Kingdom vessels to the waters of the Union and the United Kingdom;

– uphold stable quota shares, which can only be adjusted with the consent of both Parties;

– include modalities for transfers and exchanges of quotas and for the setting of annual or multi-annual total allowable catches (or effort limitations) on the basis of long-term management strategies;

– organise the modalities for obtaining fishing authorisations and the provisions that ensure equality of treatment and compliance, including joint control and inspection activities.

NFFO: Conceding to these demands would eviscerate the UK’s legal status as an independent coastal state and would commit the UK to remaining in an asymmetrical and exploitative relationship with the EU on fisheries. The UK could only accept these provisions by breaking the promises that have been made repeatedly by the Prime Minister and Cabinet level ministers, commitments on fishing made during the EU referendum. It would amount to a betrayal on a scale equivalent to the UK’s sell-out on fishing in 1973.

90. The terms on access to waters and quota shares shall guide the conditions set out in regard of other aspects of the economic part of the envisaged partnership, in particular of access conditions under the free trade area as provided for in Point B of Section 2 of this Part.

NFFO: The EU has made plain that a free trade deal would be contingent on UK concessions on fishing rights. There is no international precedent for including free access to exploit another country’s natural resources as part of a trade deal. A trade deal is important for both the UK and the EU. Some EU member states will be extremely vulnerable if the UK is forced to trade on WTO terms.

91. The provisions on fisheries should be established by 1 July 2020, in order for it to be in place in time to be used for determining fishing opportunities for the first year after the transition period.

NFFO: Given the polarised positions as the negotiations begin, it is unlikely that there will be any agreement before July. The UK will therefore enter the autumn negotiations with other coastal states, including the EU, for a fisheries agreement for 2021. It will negotiate as an independent party. This annual agreement would, following the usual pattern, cover setting total allowable catches, access arrangements, quota shares and quota exchanges.