London Fisheries Agreement

„The agreement with Norway is at least a sign that [the British] are on a constructive path, and I would not interpret it as bad news for us, but as a sign that agreements can be reached,“ Merkel said after a summit of EU heads of state and government in Brussels. This contribution argued that with Brexit and the simultaneous denunciation of the LFC by the UNITED Kingdom, all the fishing rights of the EU Member States contained in these instruments will come to an end. Even without the denunciation of the United Kingdom, it would have been unrealistic and barely practical to reintegrate the CFL on a small territorial maritime belt with a width of 6 nm. Moreover, the EU, which is the sole jurisdiction for the external dimension of the CFP, is not a party to this treaty. It is also doubtful whether EU Member States would prefer a strong case of historic fishing rights based on general international law in British territorial waters, let alone in its EEZ. From a legal point of view, these states can only ask the United Kingdom to take into account its historical fishing activity in its EEZ in deciding on access to fishing for third countries. There is no legal case if the UK decides not to grant access to third countries. However, access to fishing in European waters is not a one-way street. Both commercial fishing in the EU and the UK would be disrupted as it is currently practised in the waters of the other party. As the EU is the most important market for fish products from the UK, it is requested that access to the market for fish products from the UK be subject to reciprocal access to fishing. Beyond these political considerations, there are also commitments to cooperation in the management of common fish stocks and straddling stocks (see Article 63 of UNCLOS and the 1995 UN Agreement on Fish Stocks). Ignoring the nature of these stocks and the size of these commitments would likely lead to mismanagement and overfishing.

On the basis of all these considerations, a negotiated solution between the UK and the EU, which involves some form of reciprocal access to fishing, seems more likely than it is not. In order to avoid chaos after Brexit, an agreement on reciprocal access to fisheries should be negotiated, at least temporarily, between the UK and the EU. When UK vessels fish in third country waters with which the EU has access to fisheries agreements, the UK may have to continue to consider concluding its own access agreements.