Brexit “no deal” contingency proposals adopted to support fisheries

The mounting uncertainty over whether the United Kingdom will ratify a withdrawal agreement from the European Union has led the European Commission (EC) to adopt two legislative proposals aimed at helping mitigate the impact a so-called “no deal” Brexit could have on E.U. fisheries.

The first proposal is to allow fishermen and operators from E.U. member-states to receive compensation under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) for the temporary cessation of fishing activities. The E.C. said this will help offset some of the impact of a sudden closure of U.K. waters to E.U. fishing vessels in a no-deal scenario.

Its second proposal amends the Regulation on the Sustainable Management of the External Fleets. The aim is to ensure that the E.U. is in a position to grant U.K. vessels access to E.U. waters until the end of 2019, on the condition that E.U. vessels are also granted reciprocal access to U.K. waters. 

This second proposal also provides for a simplified procedure to authorize U.K. vessels to fish in E.U. waters and E.U. vessels to fish in U.K. waters, should the United Kingdom grant that access. This proposal is limited to 2019 and is based on the agreement in the Agriculture and Fisheries Council of 17 and 18 December, 2018, on the fishing opportunities for 2019. 

The commission said these contingency measures cannot mitigate the overall impact of a no-deal scenario, nor do they in any way replicate the full benefits of E.U. membership or the terms of any transition period, as provided for in the withdrawal agreement. 

“They are limited to these specific areas where it is absolutely necessary to protect the vital interests of the E.U. and where preparedness measures on their own are not sufficient. As a rule, they will be temporary in nature, limited in scope and adopted unilaterally by the E.U.,” it said.

Both proposals are subject to the co-decision procedure. The commission will now work with the European Parliament and the council to ensure the adoption of the proposed legislative acts so that they are in force by 29 March, 2019.  

The contingency proposals have already been welcomed by the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO), with its chief executive, Seán O’Donoghue, saying that while the reprieve is only temporary in nature, it is still an important step “to avoid catastrophe on the fishing grounds” on 30 March. 

O’Donoghue remains optimistic that a deal between the U.K. and the E.U. can be reached but stressed that it is imperative that mitigation measures are developed in the background in case an agreement isn’t reached.

“In the midst of all the chaos and uncertainty, we have been working diligently to keep fisheries high on the agenda of the negotiators which has been a seismic job of work," O’Donoghue said. “While we have made good progress to safeguard our members’ livelihoods in a post-Brexit trade deal scenario, it is crucial that we not take our eye off the ball and continue to press Britain to maintain the current levels of reciprocal access to waters and markets, as well as sound science-based fisheries management."


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