This EU document is politically important because:
4.1The EU’s current fisheries control regime dates back to 2009 (), and thus pre-dates the 2013 reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). In 2018, the Commission proposed substantial changes, including provisions to align the control regime with aspects of the reformed CFP, such as the landing obligation (“discard ban”). The EU’s 2009 fisheries control Regulation was incorporated into UK legislation as “retained EU law” and so, once the EU’s revision is complete, there will be potentially significant divergence between the EU and UK systems, with UK vessels fishing in both UK and EU waters being required to comply with both systems.
4.2The final shape of the new EU regime is unclear. Discussions between Member States and in the European Parliament have been ongoing since 2018, although the European Parliament finally adopted a position in March 2021. Whether the Council will have a position by then, though, is not guaranteed. The next opportunity for ministerial-level agreement would be the 28–29 June Fisheries Council.
4.3In her latest to the Committee, the Minister for Farming, Fisheries and Food (Victoria Prentis MP) provided little information on developments in negotiations, nor the potential impact on the UK. She confirmed that the EU’s fisheries control Regulation forms part of EU retained law in the UK, but that any changes adopted would not be applicable to the UK, other than any which amend the Regulation’s provisions on the common marketing standards for seafood as they continue to apply in Northern Ireland as part of the Northern Ireland Protocol annexed to the UK/EU Withdrawal Agreement.
4.4She added that, under the terms of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), additional requirements for UK vessels operating in EU waters will be notified prior to implementation via the Specialised Committee for Fisheries.
4.5Finally, she noted that a UK review of the Regulation as retained in UK law would be undertaken in the near future.
4.6The outcome of this review will have an impact on UK vessels fishing in EU waters. It is therefore disappointing that the Minister failed to provide additional information on the nature of discussions at EU level, some information on which is in the public domain.
4.7As the Minister pointed out, any changes affecting the provisions in the Regulation on Common Marketing Standards would apply to Northern Ireland under the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol. While the Commission did not originally propose any substantive changes to that element of the Regulation, we will check with the Minister to ensure that remains the case.
4.8A flavour of the types of issues causing concern at EU-level are evident from the adopted by the European Parliament and by a issued by the German Presidency of the Council late last year. These issues include:
4.9Some of the concerns expressed arise from the proposed move towards the mandatory provision of information electronically.
4.11We have written to the Minister as set out below. We are drawing this chapter to the attention of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, the Scottish Affairs Committee and the Welsh Affairs Committee.
We considered your letter of 5 March 2021 on the revision to the EU’s fisheries control Regulation at our meeting of 26 May 2021.
The content of your letter was disappointing, providing us with little information on the progress of discussions concerning this proposal and their potential implications for the UK. We are mindful that any changes introduced will apply to UK fishers in EU waters and the impact of that will, in turn, depend on the outcome of the UK’s own review. Whether consciously or not, it is likely that the EU’s review will impact on the UK’s review, if only because costs to the industry are likely to increase in line with the degree of divergence between the two regimes.
As a third country, the UK is no longer part of internal EU discussions, but some information on those discussions is in the public domain and we also anticipate that UK officials in the UK’s Mission to the EU will be monitoring this negotiation to the extent that they are able from outside the institutions.
In that context, and acknowledging that the Government has access to less information than was the case during the period of the UK’s EU membership, we ask that you provide us with an update covering the following matters:
We would welcome a response by 7 July, reflecting any progress at the Fisheries Council on 28–29 June 2021.
12 Proposal for a Regulation amending Council Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009, and amending Council Regulations (EC) No 768/2005, (EC) No 1967/2006, (EC) No 1005/2008, and Regulation (EU) No 2016/1139 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards fisheries control; Council and COM number: + ADDs 1–3, COM(18) 368; Legal base: Article 43(2) TFEU, Ordinary legislative procedure. QMV; Department: Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Devolved Administrations: Consulted; ESC number: 39822.