Earlier this week, the UK entered into its first fisheries agreement since leaving the EU, with the signing of a landmark agreement with Norway.
In previous years, bilateral negotiations with Norway have been led by the European Commission on behalf of the UK and other Member States. The signing of this agreement between the UK and Norway however, signals an end to that status quo, and means that for the first time in over 40 years the UK will negotiate fishing opportunities with Norway as an independent coastal state in 2021.
One of the hallmarks of the agreement is that it ensures annual negotiations between the UK and Norway take place on issues such as access to waters and quotas. With the UK fishing fleet landing an estimated £32 million worth of fish from Norwegian waters in 2018, the agreement could be significant for fishing communities across the UK, and will allow for the UK to take a more active role in its negotiations in respect to the needs and interests of the UK's fishermen and fish stocks.
Fishing and Brexit
As the UK now edges ever closer to leaving the Common Fisheries policy at the end of December, the agreement has been hailed by the Government as a significant step forward for the UK in taking back control of its natural resources and has been described by Environment Secretary George Eustice as;
"… testament to our commitment to acting as a cooperative independent coastal state, seeking to ensure a sustainable and a prosperous future for the whole of the UK fishing industry."
Thus far, fishing in a post-Brexit world has been a hugely bitter and hotly contested sticking point in the ongoing Brexit negotiations, with the UK and EU appearing to be at complete odds as to the relationship going forward.
While it remains to be seen whether the UK/Norway fisheries agreement will have any significant ramifications on the Brexit negotiations and their eventual outcome, the agreement does perhaps signal a clear intent from the UK that it will stand firm in relation to fishing, and in respect of the underlying commitment to take back control of UK waters.