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EU will allow UK to fish in its waters until December 2019 in a no-deal Brexit - if UK allows the same

Minister for the Marine Michael Creed warned against concentrating the EU’s fishing fleet into Ireland’s 200-mile fishing zone.

Nigel Farage, right, and Fishing for Leave founder Aaron Brown, left, throw fish into the river Thames as a form of protest (March 2018).
Nigel Farage, right, and Fishing for Leave founder Aaron Brown, left, throw fish into the river Thames as a form of protest (March 2018).
Image: EMPICS Entertainment

THE EU HAS said that it’s prepared to allow UK boats to fish in its waters until the end of the year if the UK reciprocates, according to a no-deal Brexit plan published today.

Various UK politicians have pledged to “take back its waters”, meaning that they would ban non-UK boats from fishing in its waters, or give UK boats first preference to fish. The UK has claimed that its fisheries is one of its strongest cards in the Brexit debate.

Ireland is concerned that if the UK does claim back its waters in this way, that a large number of EU boats that fish in British waters will use Ireland’s waters instead. 

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed today said that he had “emphasised the real risks of a concentration of fishing into Ireland’s 200 miles fishing zone by EU fleets if they are excluded from UK waters”.

I pointed out that inevitably this would lead to displacement of our own fleet and depletion of fish stocks if no action is taken.

The EU Commission today issued its contingency plans which sets out how fisheries would be managed in a no-deal Brexit, in relation to Ireland ans seven other EU member states.

The plan, which was agreed with Ireland and seven other EU member states, recognises that fisheries is “one of the most immediately critical issues” in a no-deal Brexit.

In the contingency plans published today, it was stated:

The European Union is ready to continue to provide access to UK vessels until the end of 2019, provided the United Kingdom continues to grant access to EU vessels.

“As a contingency measure, the European Union has adopted the necessary legal basis for the authorisation of EU and UK vessels to continue to fish in each other’s waters, until 31 December 2019, while respecting the agreed terms of the 2019 fishing opportunities regulations, agreed when UK was still a member state.”

But if the UK does not grant EU boats access to its waters, the plan is to compensate fishermen who “have a significant dependence on UK waters”:

The Union has adjusted the existing legal instrument to enable member states to grant financial compensation to fishermen who have significant dependence on UK waters and who have to cease these activities temporarily resulting from the lack of access to UK waters.

The no-deal Brexit plan outlines the serious knock-on effect that the UK claiming its coastal waters back could have on the EU’s fishing industry:

“Loss of access to the waters of the United Kingdom may increase pressure on stocks in EU waters, and it may have serious socio-economic consequences for those EU vessels that are heavily dependent on access to UK waters, as well as for those whose traditional EU fishing grounds may see increased activity due to displacement of fishing effort.”

The plan adds that there is “a risk that the resulting intensified fishing pressure in EU waters could irreversibly impoverish marine resources, by depleting fish stocks and damaging the ecosystem”.

There’s also a concern that there’s “a risk of disputes arising between various fleets and vessels on the fishing grounds in EU waters because of ‘overcrowding’.”

Under the heading ‘recommended action’ that could be taken, the EU says that its members could use the “current UK catches from EU27 waters, the biological capacity of stocks to cope with increased fishing pressure in EU27 waters, potential alternatives for spreading fishing pressure, uptake of quota, and the economic impact for the vessels concerned”.

Minister Creed stated, “We now have identified and agreed, co-ordinated and fully prepared measures that will be immediately available to address a no-deal Brexit situation, if the UK were to decide to deny EU vessels access to UK waters.

I am seeking additional EU funds to support this mitigation measure if they become necessary. If we need to call on these arrangements, it will be essential, as we have now agreed at EU level, that all involved EU fleets must co-operate under these structured arrangements to manage the situation.

“We have now agreed that the Irish fleet would not be disproportionately impacted and have ensured that each Member State impacted would take a fair share of the pain.”

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