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Fishing negotiations are far from an end

“It is May 2021 and there is still no agreement between the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK). The UK, as an independent state, has put on the table a number of issues that differ from the way we managed within the EU until 2020. On the vast majority of cases they are out, but there are still a few hard notes to be cracked on sensitive files.” – says the Dutch fishermen’s Union.

“For us (cutters) this is mainly about the max of unquoted species and about the exchange mechanism. In addition, we are talking about so-called Footnotes, for example, about flexibility between areas and quotas. Much is still unclear about the unquoted species. What quantity, what distribution and what happens when this quantity has been fished? All in all, it is a very slow process and it is not clear to date exactly when this can be hit.

In the meantime, however, the pressure is increasing tremendously, especially among Scottish Whitefish fishermen, despite the fact that the UK has set a provisional quota for the whole of 2021. “Quota crisis hits Scots fleet” headlines Fishing News this week. They expected to get a much larger part of the cake after Brexit. That is a huge disappointment and moreover it is cake with another 10% discount for cod. The UK does not have an agreement with the Faroe Islands this year, and it seems that there will not be an agreement with Norway either. This reduces their potential for diversion and therefore puts enormous pressure on cod and Whiting. There are many vessels lying idle and when fishing, as much cod and Whiting as possible should be avoided. Scottish Fishermen desperately need species such as saithe, Whiting and cod, and they need to be exchanged for them.

Under the trade and Cooperation agreement between the UK and the EU (TCA) it is agreed that a special committee will develop an exchange mechanism and be ready by 1 July 2021. The EU has indicated that we would like to see a situation that approximates the situation before Brexit when it comes to trade. So a lot of flexibility and exchanges that are mainly initiated by POS. This flexibility is of course important in order to make the most of the quota. The UK government seems to be focusing on a situation similar to that between the EU and Norway, where there is a one-off balanced exchange and possibly a few large exchanges during the year. However, this is extremely complicated and between the EU and the UK it will be even more complicated. On the contrary, we are getting a strong signal from the British fisheries sector that they are trading with POS in the EU member states for maximum flexibility. That is contrary to their own government.

Maximum flexibility of trading with POS in the UK is extremely important for Dutch fisheries. We are therefore following developments in the negotiations very closely and we hope that there will be a rapid breakthrough with a good outcome. We’ll keep you informed.

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