I sought to clarify how the draft Withdrawal Agreement addresses the issue of UK fishing and access to UK waters.
This is the response I have received from DEFRA:
The UK’s red lines on fish have been protected.
· Industry agrees that “The declaration gives the UK the power to assert its position as an independent Coastal State with full, unfettered sovereignty over our waters and natural resources” (Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation).
· The text acknowledges the UK will be “an independent coastal state” with the rights and responsibilities that entails.
· The EU wanted “existing reciprocal access to fishing waters and resources [to] be maintained” but this has been rejected - there is no commitment in the political declaration to maintaining existing access.
· Instead the declaration says there will be a fisheries agreement which is a separate agreement and separate negotiation to the FTA.
· This is similar to the arrangement Norway, as another independent coastal state, has with the EU - they have a fishing agreement which is separate to their trading arrangements.
The UK has consistently said that when we leave the EU:
· We will be an independent coastal State and will be outside of the CFP.
· We will be able to control and manage access to fish in our waters.
· We will be seeking to move away from relative stability towards a fairer and more scientific method for future shares of fishing opportunities.
· Fisheries will be a separate strand of our future relationship with the EU.
The political declaration protects these positions:
· The text states explicitly that the UK will be an independent coastal State; UNLCOS gives us rights to manage our UK’s territorial waters (0-12nm) and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) (12-200nm or the median line with other coastal states).
· The text provides for the establishment of a new fisheries agreement on, inter alia, access to waters and quota shares.Nothing in the agreement prescribes the content of this agreement. Access to fish in UK waters will be a matter for negotiation along with new arrangements for sharing fishing opportunities.
· In practice this is similar to the EU’s relationship with Norway and the Faroe Islands in which binding legal agreements set a framework for annual agreements on access and fishing opportunities and they provide for cooperation on fisheries management and scientific research. The Parties then negotiate annually on access and quotas which will apply in the following calendar year. We believe these agreements provide a good model for a future bilateral agreement between the EU and the UK.
· The EU negotiating guidelines (adopted in March 2018) provided that “In the overall context of the FTA, existing reciprocal access to fishing waters and resources should be maintained;”
· The political declaration does not create a link between a future agreement on fisheries, including access to waters, and any agreement on trade in fisheries products.