Negotiations around the future shape of the UK’s fishing grounds, within its regained territorial waters, are ongoing. The declared objective is to settle them by June, meaning the deal will be reached several months ahead of the main UK-EU free trade treaty. Even if fisheries talks are delayed by Coronavirus (which is far from certain), they will remain important both in their own right and also as a key outlier to the future shape of the main talks. Consequently, the negotiations need to be pursued on the UK side with aplomb.
Under international law, these waters default to direct UK control unless a new EU treaty stops that happening. The UK position however appears to be to embrace the default; some access to EU fleets may be allowed, but on an annually negotiated basis and using Norway as a model. By contrast, the EU position is driven by the objective of retaining its current extremely privileged access, a status conceded in the 1970s by Ted Heath’s negotiators who did not place the same premium on the industry as other countries have (most notably Spain).
The problem for UK fishermen is that their interests have historically been badly represented by Whitehall and by politicians, most of whom saw it as a lost cause.
So how did we get here and will the cynical betrayal finally now end?
To answer this, Red Cell have published a new paper which reviews the situation. Read in full here.