Brexit fishing row threatens to boil over – Germany promises to take hardline over quotas

EU Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius said the negotiations should be concluded as soon as possible and that an agreement can be reached on future fish catches in the coming weeks. After consultations with the national EU ministers Mr Sinkevicius said: “We are still confident that we can agree on final fishing quotas for 2021 before the end of March.”

The current chairman of the EU Fisheries Council, Portugal’s Minister for Marine Affairs Ricardo Serrao Santos, stressed that the negotiations had to be concluded as soon as possible.

Although the EU member states have already agreed on quotas with the UK after two days of negotiations in mid-December, they were only preliminary results for the first three months of 2021.

Berlin has been putting pressure on the negotiations to be concluded for some time, saying it would protect the interests of German fishermen and demanding planning security.

The talks will also include the sustainable use of marine resources with environmental campaigners claiming many fish stocks are overfished and calling for stricter protection rules to better preserve the marine ecosystem.

In response, the German Ministry of Agriculture said sustainability must “always includes the socio-economic question”.

A spokesman said: “Our fishermen must also be able to live from their catch.”

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Greenpeace marine biologist Thilo Maack said: “Instead of advocating high-tech industrial fishing, the Federal Minister for Fisheries should develop new perspectives for family-run small-scale fisheries near the coast in view of the dramatically dwindling stocks in the North and Baltic Seas.”

Fishing rights were central to whether a Brexit trade deal could be agreed or not with Britain and the EU constantly at loggerheads over access to UK waters once the transition period ended on December 31.

Both sides eventually agreed that 25 percent of EU boats’ fishing rights in UK waters will be transferred to the UK fishing fleet by June 30 2026.

EU fishing quotas in UK waters will be cut by 15 percent in the first year and 2.5 percentage points each year after, and it is estimated that by 2026, UK boats will have access to an extra £145million of fishing quota every year.

The UK fleet can expect quota increases for more than half of the 90 types of fish caught in its waters every year.

But quota shares for some species like channel cod, of which EU boats catch more than 90 percent each year, will remain unchanged.

Following the end of the adjustment period on June 30, 2026, annual talks will begin to determine the amount of fish EU fishing boats can catch in UK waters and vice versa.

But the UK then has the power to completely withdraw EU boats’ access to its waters, although Brussels could retaliate by suspending access to its own waters for UK boats or impose costly tariffs on fish exports from the UK to the EU.

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Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, has been an outspoken critic of the post-Brexit trade deal which Boris Johnson signed at the end of last year, arguing it fails to make good on the Prime Minister’s vow to take back control of UK waters.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs confirmed “reciprocal access” has been issued for the zone as the fishing transition period takes place.

A spokesman said: “Now that we have left the Common Fisheries Policy, all vessels, regardless of nationality, may only fish in UK waters if they have a valid licence and abide by UK rules.

“During the adjustment period there is reciprocal access to certain parts of the UK’s and EU’s 6-12 mile fishing zones for UK and EU vessels that can prove previous access.”

(Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg)

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