The European Commission has launched a Brexit Contingency Plan, agreed with Ireland and seven impacted Member States, which sets out how fisheries would be managed in a no-deal Brexit scenario.

The Plan identifies mitigation measures including compensation for temporary tie-up of fishing vessels.

In the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, access to UK waters would be governed by UK legislation in accordance with international law.

The EU would continue to provide access to UK vessels until the end of 2019, ‘provided the United Kingdom continues to grant access to EU vessels’.

The EU has adopted legislation to authorise reciprocal access of EU and UK vessels to each other’s waters until December 31, while also respecting the agreed terms by all Member States, including the UK, of the 2019 fishing opportunities.

The plan adds that should the UK continue to grant access to EU vessels, the Commission and Member States will minimise ‘any possible disruption due to the necessity to obtain authorisations for fishing activities for EU vessels in UK waters.’

Status quo objective

The Commission and the Member States are ready to submit the lists of vessels that request authorisation to fish in UK waters should the UK become a third country.

‘The overall objective remains to maintain fishing activities to the extent possible. However, the Union has taken actions to prepare if the United Kingdom were to decide to deny EU vessels access to UK waters.’

Commenting on the plan, Ireland’s marine minister Michael Creed said it reflected the “high level of planning” among the affected Member States (Ireland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Belgium and Sweden) working closely with DG Mare.

During a meeting with Commissioner Vella last February, Minister Creed emphasised the “real risk” of a concentration of fishing into Ireland’s 200 miles fishing zone if they were excluded from UK waters:

“I pointed out that inevitably this would lead to displacement of our own fleet and depletion of fish stocks if no action is taken.”

Mitigation measures

Minister Creed also stressed the need for a contingency plan:

“I have been working intensively over recent weeks and have kept the fishing industry informed of the work to ensure that we are ready for this worst case situation, while always hoping that we will never need to call upon these plans.”

The MS8 have “identified, agreed, coordinated and fully prepared measures that will be immediately available to address a no-deal Brexit situation, if the UK were to decide to deny EU vessels access to UK waters,” he said.

“I am seeking additional EU funds to support this mitigation measure if they become necessary,” he added.

If it is necessary to call on these arrangements, it will be essential that all involved EU fleets “must cooperate under these structured arrangements to manage the situation.

“We have agreed that the Irish fleet would not be disproportionally impacted and have ensured that each Member State impacted would take a fair share of the pain,” Minister Creed emphasised.