Fisheries talks on catch quotas are stuck on EU-UK trade agreement

Photo by Lawrence Hookham on Unsplash

The negotiations by the LNV ministers about the European fishing quota for next year have not yet yielded anything. The consultation is more or less tied to the lack of agreements with the British. As a result, there is also no clarity about permitted fishing in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean.

Because the British have left the EU, and there is no British-European trade agreement (yet?), The right to fish in the British part of the North Sea will expire with effect from 1 January.

Fisheries is one of two issues on which the UK and EU negotiators are still trying to find a compromise in their efforts to negotiate a free trade agreement before the end of the year.

According to diplomatic circles in Brussels, a first compromise proposal from the German presidency of the EU Council of Ministers did not reach an agreement. The European Commission has therefore only proposed a continuation of the current quotas for the next three months. But this also requires the consent and cooperation of the British. In view of the stalled negotiation situation on a trade agreement, this is anything but certain.

If a three-month transition is agreed with the British, the consequences for Dutch fishermen will be limited for the time being. It will be different if the fishing rights in British waters actually expire largely or completely on January 1. In that case, the Dutch fishery will be severely affected. Dutch fishermen catch 60 percent of the fish in the UK's exclusive economic zone.

This includes the question to what extent fishermen from the EU have access to the 'exclusive economic zone' of the United Kingdom and how much fish they are allowed to catch there. The exclusive economic zone is a strip of sea 370 kilometers off the coast of a country in which that country is entitled to the fish and raw materials present.

At around 0.1 percent, the fishing industry's share of the UK economy is negligible. But the fisheries issue in England plays a major role in the emotional anti-European “Take Back Control” message of the Brexit campaign. Also, many British fishermen believe that their sector has shrunk in recent years due to the British membership of the EU, and the 'admission' of Dutch, Danish, German, Belgian and French fishermen.

European fishermen are threatening to block Calais harbor and stop ferries bringing British goods to the European Union if they are banned from fishing in British waters next year. Calais is the most important port for British-European freight traffic.

France, Belgium and the Netherlands would be the hardest hit EU member states if, before the end of the Brexit transition period, a new trade deal is not signed with Boris Johnson's British government.