AN article I wrote here on December7 was headed ‘Brexit: Why fishing is impossible to resolve unless one party backs down’. Previous headlines were ‘French play high-stakes poker in the fishing war’ (November 3), ‘Fishing rule comes back to haunt the EU’ (October 31), ‘Fishing and the EU’s total disregard of the law’ and ‘Bad faith over fisheries is all on the EU’s side’ (September 21).
I don’t write the headlines, so congratulations to Team TCW because as each hour passes those titles become more prophetic, right up to last evening when more talks concerning fishing access failed. Now some commentators are questioning how such a small-value industry can play such a key role. Some are miles away while others are not far from the truth.
A very clear picture is emerging. With the UK leaving the EU, French fishermen knew that if a fisheries agreement was not forthcoming they would be out of business. They pressured President Macron but now they feel he has gone too far.
The difficulty is that we are going back 50 years: it went wrong when the French pushed through into regulation the ‘equal access principle’, which was the most dangerous piece of legislation, damaging nation relationships, communities, and environment.
This led to EEC (now EU) membership joining rules containing this clause, leading on into international law, where an EU member nation which has established its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles or median line hands the conservation and management competency to the EU. Those nations end up being represented twice by international law – UNCLOS3 in their own right, and by the EU representing all members as a single unit.
It is a tragedy that international law has been so tainted by EU politics because UNCLOS3 has the basis to bring harmony amongst nations and good environmental practice.
What the French fishermen are worried about, correctly, is that in the case of a no deal the British leave the Common Fisheries Policy taking with them the UK waters/resource. This leaves a huge hole in EU resource, and the equal access principle kicks in. Some capacity has to go, but whose?
Macron will not want to discuss this as it means admitting what has been done to the UK who bore the brunt last time. Until this is resolved the present deadlock will remain.