The UK fishing industry was shocked at the scale of the UK’s capitulation on fishing on Christmas Eve, 2020. This was a decision made at the highest reaches of Government. And it was made, despite the promises, commitments and assurances made during the Referendum Campaign and throughout the negotiations with the EU. Additional quota shares secured from the EU came nowhere close to what any self-respecting coastal state might expect as their legal right. Access to fish in UK waters – a key bargaining lever in annual fisheries negotiations – was ceded to the EU for 6 years (at least). We even failed to secure an exclusive 12 mile limit, something that most coastal states take for granted.
What we didn’t get and still haven’t received from Government is a clear statement of what has been gained and what has been lost as we left the EU.
In the wake of the TCA the Government made the claim that we were £148 million better off – although it was clear from the beginning that the incoming quota was very unevenly distributed and that there were areas where we had acute quota shortages. There seemed to be a lot of spin involved. Then as the year progressed things got worse:
- No international swaps until the second half of the year
- No reciprocal agreements with Norway or Faroes
- Problems in exporting fish to the EU (some like higher export costs and admin were foreseen as we were leaving the single market and customs union – some, like the EU ruling on bivalve molluscs, were not)
As we approach the next cycle of negotiations for a fisheries agreement for 2022, we considered it important to have a clear understanding of where we are: what has been achieved, what has been lost. For that reason, we asked Gary Taylor, an experienced fisheries negotiator, with long experience in the field, to undertake an analysis on our behalf. The brief was to make his best estimate of the gains and losses and the winners and losers in this whole process.
To be clear, we would much prefer the Government to publish its definitive cost benefit analysis in a transparent way for public scrutiny and debate. In the absence of that information, this is our best estimate.