The draft agreement includes a section on “work towards a free trade agreement”. It notes that “such an agreement cannot offer the same benefits as membership and cannot amount to participation in the singe market”. However, it goes on to say that a free trade agreement should address “trade in goods, with the aim of covering all sectors which should be subject to zero tariffs and no quantitative restrictions”, adding that “in this context, existing reciprocal access to fishing waters and resources should be maintained”.
In other words, the UK would like to continue to access the UK’s water for its own fishing purposes. Pot, have you met the kettle?
The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is the agreement which sets the quotas for how much, and what type, of fish each EU nation is allowed to catch. But according to the UK, there are two major issues with the policy. Firstly, it allows all EU trawlers to travel into the UK common waters and fish and secondly it dictates how many of what type of fish may be caught. The result has been that the UK has not been able to control what types of trawlers enter its waters and local fisheries are losing their competitive edge.
For example, UK fishermen – from Newlyn in Cornwall to Aberdeenshire – complain bitterly that they are allowed to catch less than 40% of the fish in UK coastal waters. Compared to Iceland, which is not in the EU or subject to the CFP and whose fishing boats land about 95% of the fish in their water. Norwegian fishermen also manage to keep more than 80% of the fish in their waters.
Although the fishing industry only contributes less than 1% to the British GDP, it is a politically contested issue and was a serious concern in the 2016 Brexit Referendum. The EU acknowledges this and is using this as yet another wedge for Theresa May’s Government in an effort to maintain its own survival.
Simon Collins from the Shetland Fishermen’s Association called the EU proposal “completely unacceptable”.
He said: “As an opening gambit goes, the EU’s stance is arrogant, absurd and nonsensical. The UK will become an independent coastal state on 29 March 2019, and we insist that it exercises its rights and responsibilities as such immediately.
“No coastal state currently offers the EU guarantees of access to its waters and natural resources, and neither should we.”
Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said existing reciprocal access should not be continued.
He said: “This latest gambit must be rejected. When we leave the EU we leave the Common Fisheries Policy and assume our rightful place at the table as a coastal state.
“Each year we will then decide who catches what, where and when. The days of the EU taking 60% of our fish are coming to an end. The sea of opportunity is within reach.”
— SFF (@sff_uk) March 7, 2018
The campaign group Fishing to Leave have also ridiculed the EU’s plan and have said that the EU is placing “a gun to Mrs. May’s head.”
EU has put a gun to the PM demanding our fishing waters.
This is an immediate acid test – will the government sink by surrendering or Swim by telling the EU to sod off..?@michaelgove @theresa_may @10DowningStreet @PhilipHammondUK @Jacob_Rees_Mogghttps://t.co/aGjx5jYV9c
— Fishing for Leave (@fishingforleave) March 8, 2018
But the plot thickens as people begin to question the sinister motives of the EU. This aggressive behaviour is forcing many to question whether the EU is trying to force the British Prime Minister into allowing access to fisheries in order to secure a deal on financial services. The EU is trying to take advantage of any political weakness it can possibly smell to come out on top of these negotiations. This can only make people ask whether the EU is genuinely interested in people, or are they only interested in their overall political goal.