UK-EU fisheries relations could become ‘very tense’ in event of No Deal Brexit, warns MEP

Written by Martin Banks on 24 September 2019 in News
News

EPP MEP Peter van Dalen has warned that relations between British and European fishermen could “become very tense” in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Photo credit: Press Association


In a parliamentary debate about access to UK and EU fishing waters, he also said there was a “big problem of reciprocity” if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal on Halloween.

Speaking in parliament on Tuesday, the Dutch member pointed out that there was “no guarantee” that EU fishermen from the 27 Member States would still be able to fish in UK waters if there is a no-deal Brexit.

Van Dalen, Parliament’s fisheries committee vice chair, said, “Technical preparations by the Commission are all well and good but there is no guarantee that reciprocity will be implemented or guaranteed if there is a no deal.”


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He said, “This is vital to know for our fishermen and things could get very tense between the different fleets on the UK and EU sides. Let’s hope this does not happen but it’s possible.”

He was taking part in a committee debate about fishing authorisations for European Union vessels in UK waters and operations of British fishing vessels in EU waters.

Members also spoke about European Union preparedness for changes to the EU fishing sector in the event of no-deal Brexit.

Van Dalen said, “No one knows what will happen, but in a few weeks we could well have a no-deal Brexit. No-one wins with this, on both sides of the channel.”

“Technical preparations by the Commission are all well and good but there is no guarantee that reciprocity will be implemented or guaranteed if there is a no deal …Things could get very tense between the different fleets on the UK and EU sides” Peter van Dalen MEP

“It will cause political and economic damage. A lot of companies are already leaving the UK, some coming to the Netherlands, so thank you Brexit for that.”

UK Liberal MEP Chris Davies, the committee chair, said, “It is hard to believe but we still have continued uncertainty regarding an orderly withdrawal. Every fisherman wants certainty but with five weeks to go to 31 October, after three years of talks there is still no certainty.”

A Commission representative told the committee that the EU had “contingency arrangements in place” for a no-deal Brexit.

He said, “We have worked a long time on the assumption that there would be an orderly withdrawal. This is still feasible and would grant access to each other’s fishing waters.

“But we now face the possibility of a no deal on 31 October.”

Because of this, the EU, he said, had now proposed introducing faster procedures for EU vessels to access UK waters and allowing UK vessels access to EU waters.

It would, he noted, also allow for the “swapping of quotas” between the UK and EU.

“It is hard to believe but we still have continued uncertainty regarding an orderly [UK] withdrawal. Every fisherman wants certainty but with five weeks to go to 31 October, after three years of talks there is still no certainty” Chris Davies MEP

“The aim is to make sure that everyone stays happy. We want to ensure all is in place to make sure that if there is no deal there is some reciprocal access to each other’s waters in 2020. But it is correct to say there is no guarantee of this.”

He added, “We are prepared for a no deal and that all will function well but, thus far, I have to say that while the UK did not object to this when it was previously discussed in Council, we have had no formal reply yet from the UK side to these technical preparations.”

“We assume the UK will live up to its obligations and rights but we have no guarantee of that.”

“We are not looking at striking partial deals in different sectors such as fisheries, but I accept that there is currently huge uncertainty on what will happen about access to fishing waters from 1 November. We are not able to prejudge what will happen because when the UK leaves, it will become an independent coastal state.”

The committee debate comes after the UK government’s Yellowhammer documents warned that there could be a ‘significant rise in the number of fishing vessels entering UK waters illegally’ if the UK were to leave the EU without a deal.

The Yellowhammer documents last week said up to ‘282 EU and EEA fishing vessels’ could be in UK waters illegally, on day one of a no-deal Brexit.

The six-page Yellowhammer documents make clear the government’s fears that it could lead to “clashes between fishing vessels.”

The papers also set out the impact the government expects a no-deal scenario to have on food supplies, delays at the border, civil disorder, fuel disruption and rising electricity prices, as well as on water supplies.

“This is likely to cause anger and frustration in the UK catching sector, which could lead to both clashes between fishing vessels and an increase in non-compliance in the domestic fleet.”

The documents add that competing demands on UK Government and DA maritime agencies and their assets could put enforcement and response capabilities at risk, especially in the event of concurrent or cumulative incidents, which are likely to include: illegal fishing, border violations (smuggling and illegal migration), and any disorder or criminality arising as a result, for example, violence at ports.

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at The Parliament Magazine

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