Both sides of the Christmas break have seen intense activity at Westminster as the Fisheries…
From Turmoil – Strength
The bewildering change of political fortunes over the last few weeks prompts the fair question: what does it all mean for the prospects of the UK fishing industry as the UK leaves the European Union?
As the dust settles what has changed?
- The negotiations between the EU and UK over the terms of the UK’s departure have begun. If “sufficient progress” is made, parallel negotiations on a post-Brexit trade deal will begin. Other than the important issue of what type of trade regime will apply to fisheries products, there is no reason why these negotiations should have a direct impact on the post-Brexit fisheries management arrangements. The UK will leave the Common Fisheries Policy by default when it leaves the EU and important issues such as future access arrangements and quota shares will be on the agenda for the first meetings of the new era, with the UK acting as an independent coastal state.
- We have a new Secretary of State. In a telephone call with the Federation shortly after his appointment, Michael Gove indicated:
- Fishing was very close to his heart
- As long as he was in Government, he would do everything possible in his power to revise and enhance the prospects for the British fishing industry
- He looked forward to working with the NFFO towards our common aspirations
- He is clear that the moment the UK leaves the EU, the UK will become an independent coastal state with sovereign jurisdiction over its waters within its exclusive economic zone
- The Government will have to think very carefully about how to allow access to UK waters by non-UK vessels and the links to quota shares
- During the negotiations, the UK will have to take a robust line on some issues, fishing included
- He would like to visit Norway and Faeroes to learn how they manage their fisheries and would value the Federation's thoughts
- George Eustice, returns as UK Fisheries Minister, with strong credentials and reason to seek the best possible outcome for fishing from the UK’s departure from the EU.
- The Government’s weakened parliamentary position has made them dependent, with or without a formal agreement, on the votes of the DUP to get its legislation through Parliament. Prior to the election the DUP endorsed the NFFO’s priorities:
- “Fairer quota shares
- The 12 mile exclusive zone
- Proportionate advantage from our exclusive economic zone
- Flexible and responsive management of our stocks
- Free trade in fishing products”
- A cohort of 13 Scottish Conservatives, who owe their seats in no small part to the fishing vote, are committed to the UK outside the CFP; at the same time the likelihood of a second independence in Scotland has receded.
- It is worth recalling as well, David Davis, Brexit Secretary’s assurances to the NFFO shortly after the EU referendum, that fishing held a high place in the Governments priorities
All in all, the likelihood of securing a good deal for fishing as the UK leaves the EU has been strengthened from all the political turmoil.
The significance of the Fisheries Bill announced as part of the Queen’s speech is that it would lay the legal foundations for a framework to manage fisheries in the UK EEZ after the UK leaves the EU. This would include the key elements of quota setting and access arrangements. A lot of hard thinking has been going on within the Federation and within government on the contents of the Bill and the shape of the management regime that we want to see post-Brexit. Some of this can be developed over time but the Fisheries Bill will ensure that we are ready from Day 1 to manage our fisheries.
We already know that it is the Government’s intention with the Great Repeal Bill to transfer all EU law into UK law except where that is” inoperable”, unwise or undesirable. The essential parts of the CFP – the equal access principle and the principle of relative stability – would not make the transition and the Fisheries Bill will fill that void.