UK-EU Fisheries Agreement: Taking Stock

The UK and EU have just concluded their first annual bilateral fisheries agreement made under the terms of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. The negotiations and annual agreement have been heavily shaped and constrained by the limitations imposed by the TCA. The outcomes also reflect the UK’s new legal status as an independent coastal state. The tensions created by these two divergent trajectories go a long way to explaining the shape and content of the deal for 2021.

UK-EU Fisheries Agreement for 2021

The marathon 5-month negotiation between the UK and the EU for a fisheries agreement for 2021 has concluded with a settlement. Some details on the written record are still being finalised but the Secretary of State for the UK and the Fisheries Commissioner for the EU have both announced agreement in principle.


The blockade of St Helier by French fishing vessels and the somewhat hysterical political over-reaction that has included threats to cut off electricity supplies to the island, will hopefully pass without further escalation, when calmer heads are engaged.

UK agrees fishing catch limits with EU and Norway

The UK has reached agreement with the EU and Norway on Total Allowable Catches for jointly managed stocks in the North Sea. The Government statement announcing the deal is reproduced below.

The Blame Game

The Herald has published a partial version of the NFFO’s response to ex-MEP Struan Stevenson’s criticisms of the fishing industry. Below we publish the full version.

UK/EU Annual Negotiations: A trial of strength is under way masked by the language of cooperation

Undermining Regulatory Autonomy: The first few plenary sessions of the negotiations for a UK/EU fisheries agreement for 2021 have provided a glimpse into the UK’s future relationship with the EU. The online talks are currently under way in the wake of the disastrous outcome to the Trade and Cooperation Agreement concluded on Christmas Eve. The terms of that agreement cede automatic access for EU vessels to fish in UK waters (including the 6-12nm zone) for the next 51/2 years. The UK, however, retains regulatory autonomy over the rules which apply to all vessels fishing within the UK exclusive economic zone. A major battle now looms as the EU seeks to undermine and dilute that autonomy, whilst simultaneously paying lip service to it.

A letter to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson

The NFFO has written in strong terms to the Prime Minister about the Government's portrayal of the UK/EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement as a success on fisheries:

Short Straits Export Blockages

Calais and Boulogne: despite the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the UK and the EU reached on Christmas eve, there is mounting concern over the export of fish to Europe, centering on obstacles in Calais and Boulogne. The first consignments of the year from Cornwall hit a brick wall of bureaucracy, and similar problems are being faced in relation to prawns exported from North Shields and with direct landings into Holland. At the time of writing one consignment of fish had been delayed 48 hours with attendant loss of quality. There were fears that the customer would reject the whole consignment on arrival. Buyers are warning vessels that purchases at first sale markets will soon be impacted if clear export routes across the narrow straits, compliant with the new customs regime cannot be quickly established.

Taking Stock and Moving Forward

As the old year faded away, and the new year dawns, we lick our wounds and take stock of the tasks that lie in front of us.

“Miniscule, Marginal, Paltry, Pathetic”

Some of the adjectives that will be in circulation within the UK fishing industry today, to describe the change in UK quota shares as the UK leaves the EU and the CFP, and the content of what was agreed in Brussels on Christmas eve sinks in. Some of the bell-weather stocks tell the story most vividly, After a further five years adjustment period, the UK’s share of Channel cod will have increased from 9.3% to 10.2%.

Fatal Miscalculation

A huge miscalculation lies at the heart of the EU’s negotiating strategy as we now head, apparently inexorably, into a future relationship unmediated by an overall framework agreement. The EU have made the assumption that because the EU is a regulatory superpower and because trading on WTO terms would be disadvantageous for the UK, the UK would back down on fish. This conviction has informed the EU’s negotiating mandate from the outset and its unwillingness to negotiate seriously throughout long weeks where talks have produced nothing tangible.

Fishing Goes to the Wire

As negotiations between the UK and the EU on a future partnership agreement move into their final stages, the NFFO takes stock and reaffirms the fishing industry’s aims.

Macron shift signals start of real fishing talks

The legal and political realities confronting the EU on fishing have been finally acknowledged by President Macron, in the wake of last week’s EU summit. In a statement reported by a number of news outlets he: “conceded that the post-Brexit arrangements for British seas would not maintain the status quo for the EU fishing fleet.”

Hard – But Brittle

By creating an artificial linkage between fisheries and a trade agreement, the EU has ensured that the negotiations on a future UK/EU relationship are going down to the wire. Boris Johnson cannot renege on his commitments to the UK fishing industry without devastating political fallout; and there are absolutely no signs that anyone in the British cabinet, or the UK negotiating team, even thinks that this is an option.

Opinion Piece

Barrie Deas Chief Executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations Why the UK won’t back down on fisheries


The ninth round of negotiations with the EU has now concluded. It was followed by a weekend call between the Prime Minister and EU Commission President, Ursula von der Lyon, to take stock before the next and possibly final stage.

NFFO Welcomes UK/Norway Fisheries Agreement

The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisation has welcomed the signature of a fisheries framework agreement between UK and Norway. The agreement was signed by Secretary of State, George Eustice, and the Norwegian Fisheries Minister, Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen today. This development is another important milestone towards the UK’s future as an independent coastal state.

Fishing Centre Stage in EU Negotiations

Negotiations with the EU have bounced back centre stage, as time to reach an agreement of the UK’s future relationship with the EU runs out. Both parties have said that mid-October is the latest point that a deal could be signed in time for the ratification procedures to take place before the end of the transition period on 31st December.

Joint statement from SFF and NFFO on Brexit negotiations

Elspeth Macdonald and Barrie Deas, chief executives of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) and National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) respectively, said: “For the fishing industry in the UK, leaving the Common Fisheries Policy has always been about redressing a fundamental issue: the woefully unfair allocation of quota shares in our waters, where the EU fleet has an unfettered right of access to the UK’s rich fishing grounds and fish five times more in UK waters than we fish in theirs.

NFFO Reiterates Key Positions as Negotiations Intensify

It is difficult to glean much from the official statements made by the EU and the UK after each round in the intensified UK/EU negotiations on their future relationship. Every statement has to be understood in terms of each side positioning for advantage in the talks. The overall impression, however, is quite substantial progress on many fronts but very wide gaps on a few – including a huge gulf on fisheries. The political ambition on both sides is to reach a deal but the Prime Minister and Chief Negotiator, David Frost, have made it clear that on fisheries the EU will have to travel a very long way from its current position – which is very close to the status quo – if a deal is to be made. The Commission is operating under a mandate from the member states which makes compromise impossible. These two opposing factors make the likelihood on no deal, at present, the most likely outcome. In the event of no-deal on a fisheries framework agreement, the EU would have to make a judgement whether the self-harm it would inflict on itself as well as the UK, by withholding a trade deal, would be the right course of action, notwithstanding the rhetoric generated throughout the negotiations. If it made good on its threats, the UK would trade with the EU on WTO terms from 1st January.

Fisheries Bill Lords Amendments Virtue Signalling vs Sustainable Fisheries Management

Of the eight objectives included in the Fisheries Bill, five of them relate to fishing sustainably. And that’s fine. Without a functioning ecosystem and policies which limit fishing to safe levels, there will be no fishing industry. It makes sense too, from an economic perspective, for our management decisions to aim to achieve maximum yields, where that is a reasonable option. What fisherman would be against high sustainable yields?

Post Brexit Landing Obligation

One of the benefits of leaving the Common Fisheries Policy will be the potential to rethink and redesign the landing obligation. Initially the industry will continue to work under EU retained law, but after 1st January there will be scope to redesign and implement new arrangements tailored to the conditions in UK fisheries. Both Defra and the NFFO have begun work to identify deficiencies in the EU landing obligation and how these could be addressed to inform a more effective and workable UK discard policy. The contents of this paper were discussed at a recent Defra/MMO/NFFO landing obligation forum.

UK-EU Negotiations: Fisheries

After last week’s round of negotiations, Michel Barnier singled out fisheries as one of the areas where insufficient progress is being made towards the point at the end of June when a decision is to be made (according to the Withdrawal Agreement) on whether to proceed with negotiations. Having ceased to be an EU member State at the end of January, the UK has repeatedly indicated its intention to leave the transitional period and not to ask for an extension.

Pelagics Prepare for UK Adjustment

The UK’s new status as an independent coastal state was widely recognised at a recent seminar held at the North Atlantic Seafood Conference in Bergen. An audience of invited guests heard from a panel which included representatives from the Norwegian, Faeroese and Danish pelagic organisations along with the NFFO. The seminar was organised by Norge Sildesalgslag.

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