Neither UK nor Spain are interested in a hard Brexit for fisheries

  • Fishing is a unique issue in Brexit negotiations because it deals with the management and distribution of a common resource (more than 100 fish stocks are shared).
  • The legal context seems favorable to UK but at the same time UK is very dependent on its fish exports to the UE, reaching 70% of total.
  • Within Spain, Brexit particularly puts the Galician sector at risk (105 vessels, 1,700 crew members and a turnover of around €250 million).
Presentation Gerard van Balsfoort
Gerard van Balsfoort during his presentation "European fisheries in view of Brexit"

Under the title "Fishing as an EU's priority in the Brexit negotiations", the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Food and Environment and the Government of Galicia organized a seminar in Santiago de Compostela, with a top level political representation.

The meeting is the second to be held on this subject, after the one organized in October 2017, which ended by signing  the "Santiago Declaration", a text in favor of a common European position regarding the Brexit negotiations.

Experts from the different Spanish public administrations and the sector took part in the seminar, to which Gerard van Balsfoort, chairman of the European Fisheries Alliance (EUFA), was invited as speaker.

The message from the Spanish authorities was clear about that (1) "a hard Brexit in fishing does not interest to any of the parties", (2) the goal to achieve is a long-term agreement linked to mutual access to the resource, the fishing grounds and the market, (3) the final agreement must allow preserving the current distribution of TACs and quotas.

As spokesman for the ship owners' association CEPESCA, Iván López van der Veen assured that he would sign for the maintenance of the current situation, stressing that the Spanish sector has to be more united than ever to lobbying in Brussels. Not trying to take advantage of the situation by looking for new fishing opportunities. "First", López van den Veen said, "it is to be together in the EU to achieve the best possible agreement and, once achieved, as a member state, we can try to improve our TACs and quotas". Since Spain was admitted to the EU, it has considered that the distribution of quotas according to the principle of relative stability was detrimental for its interests.

Gerard van Balsfoort showed his satisfaction in view of the existing union as a sector and as member states, which has resulted in a clear position and political visibility. For van Balsfoort, the Brexit should not change the current distribution of quotas as well as to ensure a responsible and sustainable management of the shared stocks, which are more than 100.

Faced with a possible legal context favorable to the UK, that van Balsfoort pointed out, all the speakers shared the maximum use of the strong British dependence on the EU market as an essential instrument of negotiation. Around 70% of the UK fish exports go to the EU.

About the European Fisheries Alliance

The EUFA is a coalition of European fishing fleets directly impacted by Brexit. For the time being, members include national organizations from Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Sweden.

After all presentations, a panel with great participation of the attending people took place
Interview Gerard van Balsfoort
Gerard van Balsfoort was interviewed by the Galician regional TV channel