A TACTICAL concession or capitulation? That was the provocative question posed last night by the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) following the news that the UK will remain in the Common Fisheries Policy during the 21-month transition period and will not quit next March, as expected.
The NFFO, which represents hundreds of fishermen in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, said it was still trying to work out what had been agreed in Brussels.
Like their Scottish counterparts yesterday, it expressed dismay at the move, saying: ‘There will be a lot of concern throughout the fishing industry about what seems to be emerging.
‘We were led to believe that the UK would be as an independent coastal state from March 2019. The prime minister told us that only a fortnight ago.’
The statement continued: ‘This timetable and perhaps much else has been conceded as part of the transition.
‘In fact, under international law the UK will be an independent coastal state from March. But we will immediately tie ourselves into an arrangement with the EU that is worse than we had before – as the UK will not have a seat at the table when the quotas are decided.’
NFFO members still do not know whether the so-called consultation during the transition will be meaningful like the EU-Norway annual deal or notionally cosmetic.
‘The UK’s central problem with the CFP has been that EU vessels, in value terms, take four times as much out of UK waters as our vessels take out of EU waters. That imbalance – essentially an exploitative relationship – will continue during the transition.
‘The prime minister told us that the UK would renegotiate quota shares and control access over who fishes in UK waters, and under what conditions. That promise is on hold now and may never materialise.’
The NFFO warned of further trouble down the road because similar pressures will apply when it comes to negotiations, later this year, on the UK’s long term relationship with the EU.
‘The EU, not unnaturally will want to maintain the asymmetric and exploitative relationship that currently exists.
‘In the immediate future, sticking to the existing quota shares (relative stability) during the transition period will cause serious difficulties when the EU landing obligation comes fully into force on January 1, 2019,’ the NFFO said.