British fishermen: dissatisfied with UK-EU trade deal

With the UK's exit from the EU coming into force after the agreement was reached on December 24, 2020, British fishermen are now very unhappy with the agreement and believe that Boris Johnson has cheated them and this agreement will make them poorer day by day.

UK finally ended its membership in the EU after 48 years and left the EU, the Customs Union and the EU market. One of the main arguments in favour of leaving the EU in the UK in 2016 was to gain control of British waters. This issue has been the subject of dispute between the two sides for many years and various negotiations have taken place on it. One of the most important issues to be discussed between the EU and the UK in the negotiations is the discussion on fisheries and the rights of both sides. Although this issue had little weight in the economy of both sides, it was very important politically.

At the beginning of the negotiations and in recent years, addressing this issue was marginalized or at least not made public; Because basically a small amount of exchanges and revenues of the two sides was provided through this. However, the approach of Johnson and his administration has been such that this issue in the final stages of the negotiations becomes a national and very important issue and even a symbol of resistance to the EU.

During the negotiations, the UK wanted a larger share of EU fishing after leaving the bloc, and this became one of the obstacles to an agreement between the two sides. British fisheries groups have argued that the current quota is very unfair and that the EU should provide more for British fishermen to catch offshore. After several years of negotiations that eventually led to a trade agreement between the two sides, some of the provisions of this agreement apply to the rights of both parties in the field of fisheries. But what are the provisions of this agreement?

  • EU boats will continue to fish in UK waters for some years to come
  • But UK fishing boats will get a greater share of the fish from UK waters
  • That shift in the share will be phased in between 2021 and 2026, with most of the quota transferred in 2021
  • After that, there’ll be annual negotiations to decide how the catch is shared out between the UK and EU
  • The UK would have the right to completely exclude EU boats after 2026
  • But the EU could respond with taxes on exports of British fish to the EU or by denying UK boats access to EU waters

But many British fishermen are unhappy with the deal, believing that Boris Johnson has failed to defend their rights and that the EU-UK deal will be to their detriment. Leaders of the British fishing industry believe that Johnson has not been able to gain a foothold in the fisheries rights negotiations, and that British fishermen will suffer because of his incompetence. The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations have called the deal ‘Miniscule, marginal, paltry, pathetic’ while the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation said “After all the promises given to the industry, (the deal) is hugely disappointing.” Johnson says it is true that Britain has lost some of its fishing rights, but he assures “great fish fanatics in this country that we will, as a result of this deal, be able to catch and eat quite prodigious quantities of extra fish.”

The UK abandoned the EU’s common fisheries policy on 31 December 2020. In a new trade agreement signed between the two sides, Britain and the EU have agreed to return 25% of the fishing rights of EU boats to Britain in the next five years. At the beginning of the negotiations, the UK demanded a return of 60 to 80 percent, but this request was not implemented and the rights of British fishermen were lost. That is why they are not optimistic about the agreement reached and consider it to their detriment.

The boss of the British Fisheries, Jane Sandell, said that although it was initially believed that the agreement between Britain and the EU would bring confidence and tranquility to the British fishing industry, this did not happen and “we’re still looking for the ‘prodigious amounts of fish’ we were promised, and for us it changes nothing.”

Many fishers, especially those on the south coast of England, are also furious that EU boats will be able to work up to just six miles off the British coast. The Cabinet Office minister, Michael Gove, said on Monday the agreement the UK had struck with the EU was the “best possible deal” for the fishing industry as a whole. Gove also said a “major funding package” would be announced for the sector in the “very near future” to help it take full advantage of Brexit. Writing in the Scotsman, Gove argued that at present British fishers were entitled to around half the fish in the country’s waters but by 2026 this would rise to two-thirds. But the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) claimed the gains were marginal. Speaking after Gove’s remarks, the NFFO’s chief executive, Barrie Deas, said there was a growing feeling of disappointment and frustration in the industry. He said: “There have been some marginal changes on the quota shares, but we’re tied back into an arrangement that gives access to the EU fleet to our waters up to the six-mile limit. We thought an exclusive 12-mile limit was an absolute red line for the UK. That hasn’t held.”

During this agreement, UK did not gain any special privileges, and what is interpreted as maintaining sovereignty or taking control of the country and destiny is practically meaningless with the restrictions imposed in this agreement. Fortune predicts that it will be the final year of Boris Johnson as prime minister after the British economy realized its losses in Brexit in 2021. In the new agreement, the UK has given many concessions to the other side just to tell the people that they have reached an agreement so that they can put an end to the four-and-a-half year conflict. The agreement does not give Britain the freedom to fish in its own waters, does not free it from EU rules and standards, and does not even give it enough freedom to enter into independent trade agreements with other countries. On the issue of fishing rights off the coast of the UK, it must be said that despite the government’s extensive propaganda, the situation is much more favourable for the EU. During the five-and-a-half-year transition period, they lost only 25 percent of their fishing privileges, and at the end of this period, they were given the opportunity to negotiate and re-bargain.

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