Fisheries: an industry that’s worth 0.1% of the UK’s GDP is holding up the talks

For, what may seem like eternity, access to the British fishing waters has been the main sticking point in the Brexit-deal negotiations. With two days until Christmas, when the talks will pause, and less than ten days until the end of the transition period, fisheries are still a hot topic for the negotiators and the leaders, who now felt the need to get involved in the discussions to bring them to the finish line. What’s stopping the two parties from agreeing is their disagreement on how much of the EU bloc’s fish catch value should be sacrificed for the deal to be signed. 

Offers rejected on both sides

The EU offered to give up 25% of its fishing rights phased in over a 6 year period. The UK deemed that as insufficient and demanded 35%, with the value rising to up to 60% if a wider range of species was factored into the calculations. This was to be handed back to the UK over a period of 5 years. However, the EU believed the deal proposed by the UK was a threat to the bloc’s fishing industries and rejected their offer on Tuesday. 

Leaders under pressure

Both parties are dealing with a lot of pressure coming from their fishing industries. Elspeth Macdonald, the chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation criticised Boris Johnson for even considering the 35% offer, adding “What we expect the government to hold out for is to make sure that we absolutely must control access to our fishing waters. We must have unfettered control of our waters.” 

Ms Mcdonald warned Mr Johnson on Tuesday to not ‘betray’ the industry during the final negotiations. 

“Repatriating only 35 percent of the EU’s landings to the UK phased in over a period of several years would be a terrible deal for the fishing industry.” 

Similar warnings have been issued from EU fishing groups suggesting that it is likely that both parties will end up disappointing their fishing communities. Critics point out that such outcome from the fisheries deal is inevitable and considering that the fishing sectors in the UK and EU make up a tiny part of the economy, the dragged out talks are unnecessary. 



Fishermen disappointed on January 1st on both sides of the channel 


In the UK, the fishing industry is worth just 0.1% of the UK’s GDP, while for the EU bloc the value comes to 0.2%. Despite this, the fishing communities are fiercely urging the leaders to strike a deal that satisfies both parties. Given the time limitation, and both parties’ ambition to have the deal done on Thursday, this call from the fishing industries is unlikely to be met. 

When briefing the EU ambassadors, Michel Barnier said there could be many protesting fishermen on January 1st. 

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