Fishing for Leave (FFL) has warned that the UK will be trapped in the CFP for another two years after we leave the EU on 29 March, 2019 under the government’s two-year implementation plan, and will have to obey all EU and CFP regulations during that time.
They warned that this was a ‘terrifying’ prospect, which could also mean the UK never being completely free of the CFP.
The campaign group’s warning came after Prime Minister Theresa May made ambiguous statements on the UK’s position in relation to fisheries and the CFP during a statement in the House of Commons on the Brexit negotiations on 18 December.
Asked by opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn whether the UK would remain a member of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the CFP during the transition period, Mrs May said: “We will be leaving the EU on 29 March, 2019, and we will therefore be leaving the CFP and the CAP on that date. The relationship that we have with the EU on both those issues continuing through the implementation period will be part of the negotiation of that period, and work will start very soon.”
Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael asked: “If we are to leave the CFP in 2019, and if we are not then going to trade away access to UK waters for non-UK fishing vessels, what else is there left to talk about as far as fisheries are concerned?”
The PM replied: “We will be leaving the CFP – and, as I indicated, the CAP – on 29 March, 2019. The arrangements that pertain to fisheries during that implementation period will, of course, be part of the negotiations for that implementation period.
“Leaving the CFP and the CAP gives us the opportunity, post-implementation period, to introduce arrangements that work for the UK. The Environment Secretary is discussing with the fishing and agriculture industries what those future arrangements should be.”
FFL’s Aaron Brown accused the Prime Minister of failing to make a commitment to a clean break from the CFP after 29 March, 2019.
He said the PM’s replies showed that new arrangements for the UK would not be introduced until after the end of the transition period. “The statement is a thinly-veiled admission that the UK may have officially left the CFP but would still follow the CFP as part of a transition. Worse, it seems fishing will be on the negotiating table to obtain that implementation.
“A ‘transition’ period where we re-agree to obeying ALL EU law and maintain ‘full regulatory alignment’ is terrifying – we may have officially left the CFP, but we’ll be locked into running a mirror image.”
Aaron Brown pointed out that both Commission chief negotiator Michel Barnier and President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, had clearly stated that, as a matter of law, agreeing to a transition period will mean obeying ALL EU law, including new ones, after Britain officially leaves the EU.
“We will have re-joined the EU in all but name, having to obey its laws and directives, with no control or say, in some sort of legal purgatory.”
This was ‘terrifying’ because it would allow the EU to ‘move the goal posts’ and finish off the industry, and also because we would be subject to the full discards ban and choke species that will decimate 60% of the UK fleet, according to Seafish statistics.
“It is an impossible contradiction for the UK to be free of the EU and the CFP, and have a transition. Adopting all EU law and then agreeing to a transition while we obey that law, flies in the face of ‘taking back control’, and exposes this country to huge risk legally.”
Aaron Brown also warned that signing up to a transition period might mean that the UK would never escape from the CFP under the treaty provisions of the Vienna Convention.
“It will allow the EU to claim continuity of rights if there is not a specific clause that rights, obligations or legal situations continued under the withdrawal/transition agreement cease to apply and/or are specifically time limited,” he said.
● As Fishing News went to press, chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told reporters the EU wants a post-Brexit transition period to end on December 31, 2020.