Brexit talks on brink as major fishing hurdle may ‘derail whole negotiation’ – new report

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The subject goes to the heart of the Brexit debate, with the UK determined to assert its rights as an independent coastal state free to negotiate annually with the EU much as any other third country would. By contrast, Brussels wants to preserve the status quo as dictated by the Common Fisheries Policy – something which would be completely unacceptable to Brexiteers.

It is remarkable that a failure to agree on this issue might derail the whole negotiation

Professor Anand Menon

Professor Anand Menon, director of The UK in a Changing Europe (UKandEU), which published the report, Fisheries and Brexit, today, said: “That Brexit has been an intensely political process has been clear for some time, but the prominence of fisheries in the negotiations underlines the point.

“It is remarkable that a failure to agree on this issue might derail the whole negotiation.”

Dr Christopher Huggins, senior lecturer in Politics at the University of Suffolk and one of the report’s authors, added: “With all the political prominence fisheries has received and much of the rhetoric around it, it’s easy to overlook the complexity involved.

“Securing success in the negations and ensuing fisheries policy works effectively after the transition depends on carefully managing a range of competing political, legal, economic and environmental issues and a range of interests and voices within the industry itself. This report sheds light on these.”

Fishing represents just 0.1 percent of UK gross value added (GVA).

Meanwhile, for most EU member states, it amounts to 0.1 percent or less of their economic output.

However, it remains arguably the most hotly contested unresolved question in respect of the UK’s future trading relationship with the bloc.

With no sign of a breakthrough despite four rounds of talks involving UK negotiator David Frost and opposite number Michel Barnier of the EU, time is running out to strike a deal which is acceptable to both sides.

The inherent difficulties were today illustrated by Jean-Pierre Pont, a member of France’s Parliament, who warned French President Emmanuel Macron not to give an inch.

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He said: “The government must stay as firm as possible.

“Britain can’t be better off outside than inside.”

The report’s analysis considers the economic and political significance of the fishing industry for both sides.

Among its conclusions are:

* The UK and EU need each other’s markets – UK consumers tend to eat fish caught by EU boats and many UK companies depend on exports to the EU, with roughly 80 percent of UK fish landings being exported

* Failure to reach a deal by the end of the year will mean the UK and EU will be bound by international law – the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

* The UK contributed 14 percent of the overall catch in the EU in 2017 compared with Spain’s 17.5 percent, Denmark’s 16.9 percent and France’s 9.7 percent

* The fish-processing sector is bigger than the fish-catching sector in the UK by both GVA (£794 million versus £505 million) and employment (19,191 full-time employees versus 9,588)

* Fishing activity varies across the UK – for instance, fishing is more important to the Scottish and Northern Irish economies than to England

* When the UK quits the CFP, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will need to decide how best to manage UK fisheries, which could result in tension between London and the three devolved Governments

* 60 percent of the total value of fish landed in the UK is in Scotland and it accounts for more than half the fish caught in the UK (445,000 tonnes compared with 248,000 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland)

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