The EU Commission last week issued a Brexit Contingency Plan, agreed with Ireland and seven other impacted Member States, which sets out how fisheries would be managed in a no-deal Brexit. Fisheries is recognised as one of the most immediately critical issues facing the EU in a no-deal Brexit.
The Plan reflects that the EU has adopted two contingency measures in the area of fisheries to cover all scenarios under a no-deal Brexit. On the one hand, the EU has created the appropriate legal framework in a no-deal Brexit situation to allow UK vessels reciprocal access to EU waters throughout 2019, if the UK grants such access to EU vessels in its waters. On the other hand, the EU has also adjusted the eligibility criteria of the Fisheries and Maritime Fund, to ensure that fishermen who have to cease their activities – in case the UK does not grant continued access to its waters – can receive compensation. In such a case, it would be essential that Member States adopt a coordinated approach to ensure a level-playing field between EU fishermen in different Member States and to protect marine resources.
The Communication sets down the preparations in the EU, agreed with the eight Member States directly impacted, in the event of a no-deal Brexit. It identifies the need for mitigation measures and in particular compensation for temporary tie up of fishing vessels. It gives the EU Commission a strong co-ordination role.
This communication reflects the high level of planning by Ireland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden working closely with DG Mare. When I met Commissioner Vella last February, I emphasised the real risks of a concentration of fishing into Ireland’s 200 miles fishing zone by EU fleets if they are excluded from UK waters. I pointed out that inevitably this would lead to displacement of our own fleet and depletion of fish stocks if no action is taken.
I stressed to the Commissioner the need for a European approach to addressing this issue and agreed with him that the key Member States and DG Mare needed to put in place a contingency plan. I have been working intensively over recent weeks, and have kept the fishing industry informed of the work to ensure that we are ready for this worst case situation, while always hoping that we will never need to call upon these plans.
We now have identified and agreed, co-ordinated and fully prepared measures that will be immediately available to address a no-deal Brexit situation, if the UK were to decide to deny EU vessels access to UK waters. I am seeking additional EU funds to support this mitigation measure if they become necessary. If we need to call on these arrangements, it will be essential, as we have now agreed at EU level, that all involved EU fleets must co-operate under these structured arrangements to manage the situation. These arrangements facilitate a European response to the situation with the objective that the Irish fleet would not be disproportionately impacted ensuring that each Member State impacted would take a fair share of the pain.