Documents considered by the Committee on 13 March 2019 Contents

2Brexit-preparedness: Fisheries

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Document details

(a) Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EU) 2017/2403 as regards fishing authorisations for Union fishing vessels in United Kingdom waters and fishing operations of United Kingdom fishing vessels in Union waters; (b) Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EU) No 508/2014 as regards certain rules relating to the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund by reason of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the Union

Legal base

(a) Article 43(2) TFEU, ordinary legislative procedure, QMV (b) Articles 42 and 43(2) TFEU, ordinary legislative procedure, QMV

Department

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Document Numbers

(a) (40337), 5678/19, COM(19) 49; (b) (40338), 5668/19, COM(19) 48

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

2.1Given the continued uncertainty over UK ratification of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, the European Commission published two proposals designed to mitigate the impact on the EU fisheries sector of a “no deal” Brexit scenario. The first proposal (document (a)) aims to ensure that the EU is in a position to grant UK vessels access to EU waters until the end of 2019, on the condition that EU vessels are also granted reciprocal access to UK waters. The second proposal (document (b)) would allow fishermen and operators from EU Member States to receive compensation under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) for the temporary cessation of fishing activities. This would help off-set some of the impact of a sudden closure of UK waters to EU fishing vessels in a no-deal scenario.

2.2We considered the proposals at our meetings of 13 February and 6 March 2019, raising a series of questions. The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Rt Hon. Robert Goodwill MP) has responded.10

2.3On the key question of the Government’s position on quota allocation in the event of a no-deal, the Minister retains the approach of not making any commitment at this stage to respecting the status quo for the whole of 2019 in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

2.4The Minister is equally unclear as to whether the procedures under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 would be applicable to any EU-UK fisheries agreement for 2019 or indeed to any fisheries agreements between the UK and other states, such as Norway and the Faroe Islands. Concerning EU processes, the Minister contends that fisheries agreements with third countries are a matter of Council competence only and therefore do not require European Parliament ratification. Consequently, there would be no concern about failure to reach an agreement in time for the EP’s final plenary session (18 April 2019) before its election in May.

2.5Finally, the Minister notes that the proposal is likely to be voted on in Council on 18 March and that the UK will abstain as the proposals would not apply to the UK directly.

2.6We note this latest information from the Government and recognise the ongoing uncertainties regarding the nature of the future fisheries relationship with both the EU and other coastal states.

2.7On a technical point, we note the Government’s contention that fisheries agreements with third countries are a matter of Council competence only and therefore do not require European Parliament ratification. That is true for signature but Council Decisions for the conclusion of such agreements do require the consent of the European Parliament. Such an approach would not, of course, exclude provisional application of an agreement. It would be helpful if the Minster would clarify the Government’s understanding of the European Parliament’s involvement.

2.8Bearing in mind the Government’s intention to abstain in Council, we retain the proposal under scrutiny and ask that the Minister write to us with an updated position on the matters raised in our last Report within ten working days. We draw this chapter to the attention of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.

Full details of the documents

a) Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EU) 2017/2403 as regards fishing authorisations for Union fishing vessels in United Kingdom waters and fishing operations of United Kingdom fishing vessels in Union waters: (40337), 5678/19, COM(19) 49;

(b) Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EU) No 508/2014 as regards certain rules relating to the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund by reason of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the Union: (40338), 5668/19, COM(19) 48.

Previous Committee Reports

Fifty-seventh Report HC 301–lvi (2017–19), chapter 5 (6 March 2019); Fifty-fifth Report HC 301–liv (2017–19), chapter 3 (13 February 2019).


10 Letter from Rt Hon. Robert Goodwill MP to Sir William Cash MP, dated 11 March 2019 (received 12 March).




Published: 19 March 2019