Uncertainty about fishing rights despite Brexit deal
Despite a deal being reached between the EU and the UK, European fishers do not yet know whether they will be allowed to fish in British waters from January 1. Due to Brexit, they will need permits from Friday, but these have not yet been issued.
The National Dutch Enterprise Agency (RVO) warns fishers that they cannot operate in British waters without the correct paperwork. The Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority will keep an extra close eye on the position of Dutch fishing boats from Friday and has announced that it can issue warnings and fines if vessels do not comply with the new rules.
In the run-up to Brexit, the European member states drew up a list of boats that fish in British waters so that the paperwork could be arranged quickly in the event of a deal. “We have to wait for the United Kingdom,” said an RVO spokesperson. “There is pressure from all levels for speedy handling, but as long as there is no agreement on the list, no European fisherman can fish in British waters.”
Norwegian waters are also off-limits without a permit. Norway is not a member of the European Union and therefore makes separate agreements about fishing each year. The Norwegians postponed their licenses because they wanted to await the Brexit deal.
The fishing unions are fed up. “The list of fishing boats has been in Brussels for a long time. You hope that after all these years of negotiating, everyone will turn the switch and help each other,” says Gerard van Balsfoort of the shipowners’ association for sea fishermen. “It’s an uncertain time, and I hold my heart.”
At the moment, there are few boats out at sea. Most fishers stay indoors because of New Year’s Eve, but they plan to set sail this weekend and Monday. The fishing unions do not expect unlicensed boats to enter British waters.
“I will try to catch something close by, or to the French coast,” says fisherman Job Schot. “It will then be very difficult to earn anything.”
The Dutch fishing trade association VisNed announced their disappointment in the new Brexit deal. Director Pim Visser highlighted his dismay, saying that “we are dissatisfied, billions in fishing rights are going to the UK. But sometimes you have to count your chicken. We knew it was coming, but it still hurts terribly,” said Visser.
Meanwhile, the British fishing industry is also unhappy with the deal. They argue that it still gives the EU wide-spread access to British waters, unlike the UK government initially promised.
“The industry will be bitterly disappointed that there is no more of a definitive break,” said Barrie Deas, chief executive of The British National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, in an interview with Reuters.