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Concession on three-year fisheries transition with EU acceptable – sector chief

By Patrick Daly, PA Political Correspondent

A compromise offer to give European fishermen a three-year adjustment period to wean them off quota in British seas would be “acceptable”, according to a national fishing chief.

Fishing has proved to be a major stumbling block in the post-Brexit trade negotiations between the UK and the European Union, along with state aid.

But according to a report in the Guardian, UK negotiators have offered Brussels a three-year buffer period to ease the impact of any reduction in the amount of fish that European boats can catch in British seas once the transition period with the bloc ends in 2021.

UK negotiator Lord Frost is in Brussels this week as the cross-Channel teams seek to break the deadlock in the talks as they look to reach an agreement before the Prime Minister’s cut-off date of October 15 when the next EU Council meeting is due to take place.

The reported fisheries concession would see fishing quotas for European trawlers scaled back gradually between 2021 and 2024, rather than bringing the changes in immediately on January 1, in an effort to ease the effect that any loss in quota would have on coastal communities on the Continent.

Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO), said he thought the move would be acceptable to the catching sector.

Mr Deas told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think three years is about acceptable, within this context, as long as we see movement in equal steps.

“We need to see an improvement from day one.

“But I think three years could be acceptable. Anything longer, I think, would be a stretch.”

Fishing formed a central part of the Vote Leave campaign and ministers have regularly promised to make Britain an “independent coastal state” with full control over access to its territorial waters once outside of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

UK fishermen have long argued that they got a raw deal under the terms of the CFP, which afforded member states quota based largely on how much and where they fished in the 1970s, and Boris Johnson accused European skippers of “pinching our fish” in the lead-up to the 2016 referendum.

Reports of the brokered concession come after the UK signed a fisheries agreement with Norway, its first since leaving the EU.

The deal, which means that the UK and Norway will hold negotiations on the issues of access to waters and quotas, is the first the UK has struck as an independent coastal state in 40 years.

Each year the UK fleet lands some £32 million-worth of fish from Norwegian waters, and Britain will negotiate fishing opportunities for 2021 with Norway this autumn.

It marks a change from the past, when the EU would conduct bilateral talks with Norway on behalf of the UK and other member states.

Mr Deas said the arrangement with the Scandinavian nation could “absolutely” form the blueprint with an arrangement with the EU.

He said that, while there was “scope for some room for compromise around the edges”, the UK was “absolutely adamant that what we have to have is something very similar to the Norway agreement”.

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