EVER since the week before the Referendum, when our fishing vessels came up the Thames, the EU has set about making sure that if the UK voted to leave the EU, Brussels would gain access to our fishing waters one way or another, irrespective of international and European law.
This extended as far as picking the EU’s chief negotiator. Michel Barnier was well versed in fishery matters, far beyond the capability of anyone we had.
While the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration, driven and prepared by the EU, were brief on the fishery issue, four paragraphs apiece, with rapier-like precision they covered all they wanted.
Withdrawal Agreement Article 130 (1-4) Specific arrangements relating to fishing opportunities:
4 Without prejudice to Article 127(1), the relative stability keys for the allocation of fishing opportunities referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article shall be maintained.
Political Declaration XII. FISHING OPPORTUNITIES (Nos 71-74):
73 Within the context of the overall economic partnership the Parties should establish a new fisheries agreement on, inter alia, access to waters and quota shares.
74 The Parties will use their best endeavours to conclude and ratify their new fisheries agreement 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.
This secures all the EU requires. Article 127(1) keeps us under the European Court of Justice during the transition period up to 31 December 2020, with the possibility of extending to 31 December 2022. During transition the UK has no say, no input, continues paying into EU coffers in full and has to accept all new EU legislation in its entirety.
If the above is not bad enough, to make the EU expectations watertight, EU regulations have been established and accepted by the UK. As each leaving deadline passed, and a leaving extension was agreed, so were the regulations amended.
The first one was Regulation 2017/2403 of 12 December 2017:
(14) The core principle of this Regulation is that any Union vessel fishing outside Union waters should be authorised by its flag Member State and monitored accordingly, irrespective of where it operates and the framework under which it does so. The issuing of an authorisation should be dependent on a basic set of common eligibility criteria being fulfilled. The information gathered by the Member States and provided to the Commission should allow the Commission to intervene in the monitoring of the fishing operations of all Union fishing vessels in any given area outside Union waters at any time.
This had to be amended due to the second extension. Regulation 2019/498 of 25 March 2019:
(4) To ensure the sustainability of fisheries, and in light of the importance of fisheries for the economic livelihood of many communities in the Union and in the United Kingdom, the possibility of arrangements for continued full reciprocal fishing access by Union and United Kingdom fishing vessels to each other’s waters after the CFP ceases to apply to the United Kingdom as a Member State should be maintained, for a limited period of time. The purpose of this Regulation is to create the appropriate legal framework for such reciprocal access.
Then we move on to Regulation 2019/1797 of 24 October 2019, covering the next extension:
(7) Regulation (EU) 2019/498 of the European Parliament and of the Council (9) amended Regulation (EU) 2017/1403 as regards fishing authorisations for Union fishing vessels in United Kingdom waters and fishing operation of United Kingdom fishing vessels in Union waters. That amendment would allow for the possibility of continued fishing access by Union and United Kingdom vessels to each other’s waters. A flexible system was also provided for which would allow the Union to exchange quotas with the United Kingdom after the Treaties cease to apply to the United Kingdom. The period of application of those provisions needs to be extended to enable the issuing of fishing authorisations for fishing activities in each other’s waters in the absence of a fisheries agreement concluded with the United Kingdom as a third country, provided that the management of the relevant stocks continues to be sustainable and in accordance with the conditions set out in the rules of the CFP and in the Council Regulations fixing fishing opportunities.
I have taken only one article from each of three regulations; there are plenty more but to list them would change this article into a highland railway. These are enough to show how advanced and prepared the EU are in their determination to be the dominant factor in European fisheries.
In the EU Commission document Fishing outside the EU concerning fishery agreements, here is such an example as per the last paragraph: ‘The Common Fisheries Policy, especially its external dimension, establishes a legal framework for EU fishing activities outside the European waters ensuring that these are based on the same principles and standards as those applicable under Union law.’
Those interested in this subject should read the 159-page European Parliament report Common Fisheries Policy and Brexit of June 2017, for the European Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries (PECH Committee). It is a very thorough piece of work, clearly showing how far ahead of us the EU are. This is not surprising, considering that the subject has been under the control of the EU for nearly half a century: we haven’t anyone left who knows what it is to be a free and independent nation.
At the time of writing we don’t know the composition of the new UK government, who will negotiate, or who will take on the fisheries brief. If the UK are not careful, there will be no rejuvenation of our coastal communities, no introduction of a forward-looking environmentally-driven UK fisheries management policy, rather one dominated by the EU and their Common Fisheries Policy.