The Flevoland region and the CPMR held a conference on Fisheries, Brexit and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) after 2020 on 20 April 2018 in Almere, Flevoland.
Organised at the kind invitation of Mr Jan-Nico Appelman and Mr Michiel Rijsberman, the meeting took place ahead of the European Commission’s proposals for the future EU budget. It focused on the potential impact of Brexit on the fisheries sector in the UK and across Europe, and the future budget and areas of focus for the EMFF.
Fishing is a very important economic sector in the Flevoland region, and especially in the city of Urk. 39% of fishing employment in the Netherlands, equating to 3,354 jobs, is located in Urk. 24.5% of Dutch flag vessels are attached to Urk, where one of the world’s largest fish auctions is also located.
As outlined during the meeting by Jan-Nico Appelman and Marieke Pondman, Director of the Dutch Ministry of Fisheries, these activities are highly dependent on links with the UK. 60% of fish sold in the United Kingdom is processed in Urk, and access to territorial waters is crucial for Dutch fishermen. A closure of these waters would deprive these fishermen of 60% of their fishing grounds.
Beyond that, a ‘hard’ Brexit would also have serious consequences for the downstream fishing industry. The EMFF will be a decisive instrument to support fishermen in the European Union in the face of these consequences.
With the CPMR, the Flevoland Region is therefore very attentive to the Brexit. During a meeting between a delegation from the CPMR and the Atlantic Arc Commission, and the European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, in January 2018, Mr Barnier confirmed the importance given to this sector by the EU in the negotiations.
The Brexit and Fisheries Negotiation Guidelines have been published by the European Commission. Under the agreement between the EU and the UK on the transitional period, the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy will be applied throughout this period.
As reflected in a recent note from the European Commission on Brexit and Fisheries, the issues to be resolved are vast and uncertainty remains as to their ultimate outcome. This is naturally the subject of as much debate in the UK as in other states.
At the Almere Conference, Dr Craig McAngus, of the University of Western Scotland, spoke about the political importance of the fisheries sector in the Brexit vote and the high expectations this sector in the UK as to the outcome of the negotiations.
He also pointed out the paradoxes between these expectations, and the fact the majority of British ships belong to fleets from other EU countries. He also highlighted the UK’s dependency on the Single Market, with the vast majority of British fishery products exported to the EU.
Dr McAngus also outlined the tensions that currently exist between the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments in conducting the negotiations. He explained that the Welsh and Scottish administrations do not feel sufficiently associated with the conduct of the negotiations by the UK Government.
Eleni Marianou, CPMR Secretary General, and Pierre Karleskind, Vice-President of the Brittany Region in charge of the Sea, and President of the CPMR Fisheries and Aquaculture Group, presented the principles of the CPMR’S political position regarding the future of the EMFF, which are as follows:
- Maintain the EMFF as a specific fund to support as a priority the Common Fisheries Policy
- Support the Integrated Maritime Policy
- Simplify the EMFF
- Strengthen the partnership with the Regions
- To provide the EMFF with a budget commensurate with the needs of the players and the ambitions of the European Union
These principles are largely shared by the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), whose opinion on the future of the EMFF was presented by Antonio Basanta, Chief of Staff of the Galician Minister for Fisheries.
In response to these interventions, Elisa Roller, Head of Unit of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG Mare), outlined the positive elements, beyond Brexit, in which support from the EMFF will be essential for the fisheries and aquaculture sectors.
The elements it has been able to indicate regarding the content of the post-2020 EMFF are also positive, concerning the specific political objectives of the EMFF, the simplification, the establishment of a logic of results, leaving more room for manoeuvre for the Member States and regions, and the adequacy between the EMFF measures and the specificities of the sea basins.
The CPMR and its member regions will be very attentive to the proposals that the European Commission will publish at the end of May on the post-2020 EMFF.
However, there is already cause for concern in view of the budget reduction of 15% proposed for the EMFF.