Lack of fisheries deal ‘could derail Brexit talks’

Think tank warns trade agreement would be scuppered without an agreement on fisheries.

Failure to agree a deal on fisheries could “derail” the entire Brexit negotiation between the UK and the EU, a think tank has said.

A new academic report found the chances of a trade agreement would be scuppered without an agreement on fisheries, despite the sector making up a relatively small part of economies on both sides of the Channel.

The report, from a group of researchers called The UK in a Changing Europe, said Scottish fishers will benefit from additional rights if the UK gets its way.

But the industry risks losing access to EU markets if there is no trade deal following the Brexit transition period.

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The UK wants to assert its rights as an independent coastal state and negotiate annually with the EU after the transition period, while the EU wants to preserve access as now.

The think tank said negotiations on the issue are at a stalemate after four rounds of talks.

Tensions could also arise between the UK Government and the devolved administrations when the common fisheries policy ends, it said.

Professor Anand Menon, director of The UK in a Changing Europe, said: “That Brexit has been an intensely political process has been clear for some time but the prominence of fisheries in the negotiations underlines the point.

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“It is remarkable that a failure to agree on this issue might derail the whole negotiation.”

Dr Christopher Huggins, senior lecturer in politics at the University of Suffolk, said: “With all the political prominence fisheries has received and much of the rhetoric around it, it’s easy to overlook the complexity involved.

“Securing success in the negations and ensuing fisheries policy works effectively after the transition depends on carefully managing a range of competing political, legal, economic and environmental issues and a range of interests and voices within the industry itself. This report sheds light on these.”

The report, titled Fisheries and Brexit, is being released on Friday.
It said despite making up just 0.1% of the UK’s gross value added (GVA), fishing “has a political salience that far outweighs its economic significance.”

The figure is similar for most EU member states, with fishing making up around 0.1% of their economic output.