Thursday, August 18, 2016

More Brexit discussion

This time it is about fisheries, a subject of some importance and one that this blog will be covering. The House of Commons Library has produced a short Briefing Paper under the title Brexit: What next for UK fisheries?. A friend called my attention to it and described the paper as "pusillanimous". Slightly more politely, I would call it "careful", which is not necessarily a bad thing at this stage but one would like to see a little more emphasis on countries that are outside the EU, run their own fisheries and do, somehow, manage to be successful at it and at negotiations with the EU.

Yes, dear readers, Norway and Iceland negotiate themselves both with the EU and at international level, like big grown up countries. The implication in the paper is that the UK is going to find that rather difficult and may well lose access to the European market, which, as it happens, buys fish from what will, we assume, be designated UK waters because it wants to not because it is forced.

Usually, these briefing papers are well produced but there is some sign of haste with this one. Several times whole sentences and paragraphs are repeated either because nobody had edited or proof-read the paper or because the author thinks that its readers have the memory of a goldfish. (Oh look, another piece of sea weed. Doesn't it look just like the last one.) Also, for some reason George Eustice, Minister of State at DEFRA, is called George Eustace in the text though given his correct moniker in the notes.

Some things do become clear. According to the 1976 international agreements home waters are 200 nautical miles from shore and it was a certain sleight of hand that enabled the EU to announce that actually it was all their waters. Negotiations should focus on that.

The much vaunted reforms of the Common Fisheries Policy have not gone all that far and, in any case, would not have been needed if the the Policy had not been such an economic and ecological disaster. Those discards, which are still happening, could have been stopped many years ago through various technical methods, such a mesh size but that is hard to achieve with the political structure of the CFP. That can be resolved if we disentangle ourselves from that pernicious structure.

Finally, what of co-operation with other countries once the fisheries are under British control? Well, oddly enough, that is not an impossibility:
The UK would need to cooperate with the EU after Brexit on quota setting. Cooperation on sharing stocks is required as many fish stocks are migratory and therefore cross EEZ boundaries. Fish populations could be damaged if countries failed to coordinate on fishing effort.

Such cooperation is enshrined in international law. The UN Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in 199628 require cooperation on the conservation and management of fish stocks that straddle national jurisdictions. The UK has ratified these agreements.

Such cooperation is currently seen in Norway and other non-EU European countries. Around 90% of Norway’s fisheries are shared with other countries29, even though it is much more geographically isolated than the UK. The Norwegians set fish quotas and management strategies for important fish stocks in negotiation with other countries, including the EU and Russia. Norway and the EU have developed management strategies for several joint stocks including cod, haddock and herring.

The EU cooperates and negotiates with non-EU countries on behalf of Member States. The outcome of negotiations on one stock may be influenced by negotiations on another.

Following Brexit the UK will have to:

• maintain a close working relationship with the EU to enable the effective management of fisheries;

• agree a mechanism for agreeing quotas and management measures with the EU and other countries. This could be a bilateral mechanism between the UK and EU “in the case of stocks that are shared only between the EU and UK”, or through the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) for stocks shared with other countries “as is currently the case with mackerel, which is negotiated between the EU, Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands”.
Perhaps. Or perhaps other structures will have to be created though there is much to be said for using the ones already in existence. The point is that these are all soluble problems.

We need to create another policy that will include our intentions towards other countries and towards the fishing industry in this one.

No comments:

Post a Comment