The Brief, powered by GIE – Cod War II

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter. [EPA/GERRY PENNY]

Nothing stirs Anglo-Gallic passions quite like the sight of gunboats in the Channel. The presence of several hundred patrol boats in the waters around Jersey – one of the picturesque Channel islands that provides offshore banking to the mega-rich – is the latest act in the Brexit farce.

Jersey is one of the most patriotic and most pro-Brexit places you will find. Although, adding to the irony, it isn’t even part of the UK.

Unfortunately, this foolish bravado in a spat over fishing rights is a sign of things to come. Until 2026, the UK is transitioning away from the Common Fisheries Policy. After that, an annual agreement with the EU on fishing quotas will need to be negotiated. That looks like wishful thinking.

The truth is that both sides are losing out, and this trend is likely to continue.

Most of the UK fishing industry is finding that the early months of the Brexit experiment are leaving them financially worse off. The industry is losing an estimated £1 million per day due to new paperwork requirements to export their products to the EU market.

The government’s failure last week to secure an agreement on quotas with Norway or Iceland is going to hurt precisely the fishing towns in those parts of north and eastern England that voted so heavily for Brexit.

French President Emmanuel Macron and the European Commission say that the UK authorities are adding requirements that were not in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. The UK government retorts that its shellfish firms have been denied licenses for export to the EU market, despite UK firms keeping the same standards as the EU.

Macron’s Europe Minister Clément Beaune says that the EU should deny UK access to its financial services market, though it’s hard to see what that would achieve. If European politicians think that economic threats will work with Boris Johnson then they clearly have not learned anything from the last five years. In tit-for-tat, as with Brexit itself, there are no winners.

Both sides have a case. Yet neither has been straight with its fishermen.

President Macron’s promise to safeguard French fishermen in the post–Brexit trade pact was never in his gift. France’s fishing sector is worse off under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, since 25% of the previous EU quota in UK waters will gradually to the UK between now and June 2026, with specific percentages of annually agreed Total Allowable Catches (TACs) agreed for each fishing stock.

Mutual access to each other’s waters is policed by a licencing system. French fishermen are, and will be, worse off. So, too, is most of the UK fishing sector.

In the great ocean in the sky, Nelson and Napoleon must be delighted. But nobody else is.


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The Roundup

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has sent two Navy patrol vessels to Jersey over concerns that French fishermen could blockade its main port in an escalating post-Brexit row.

Tensions have mounted at the Polish, Czech and German border over a coal mine in Poland that Prague says is contaminating its water supplies and has been operating illegally for over a year.

The EU’s highest court has ruled that the European Commission was entitled to restrict the use of three neonicotinoid pesticides linked with bee decline after an attempt to overturn the decision from the agrochemical company Bayer.

The transition to a greener, more sustainable economy will be impossible without the support of industries based around the ocean and coasts – known as the blue economy – according to the European Commission.

EU defence ministers on Thursday (6 May) agreed to allow the United States, Norway and Canada to join the bloc’s project on military mobility, seen as the ‘silver bullet’ for EU-NATO defence cooperation and designed to ensure seamless movement of military equipment across the EU in response to crises.

With the post-Brexit trade pact now formally ratified, EU and UK lawmakers must take the lead in rebuilding the cross-Channel relationship, writes John McStravick.

Look out for…
  • President Von der Leyen speaks at the Porto Social Summit in Portugal
  • Vice-President Timmermans holds a call with Mr Alan Matthews, Professor Emeritus of European Agricultural Policy, on the future Common Agricultural Policy
  • Commissioner Borrell delivers a speech at the Annual conference on the State of the Union 2021, organised by the European University Institute

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Josie Le Blond]

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