The EU’s insistence that quotas under the common fisheries policy for the seas around the UK will remain in force during a Brexit transition period has been backed up by the Norwegian government, dealing a fresh blow for Downing Street.
Pers Sandberg, the Norwegian fisheries minister, said he expected talks between the EU, UK and Norway over fishing rights to be complex and likely to conclude at the end of a transition period.
Norway is not part of the CFP but has agreements with the EU to allow mutual access to waters and markets, and will play a key role in talks about a future arrangement.
On Thursday the Guardian revealed that Brussels diplomats were agreed that Britain should effectively remain governed by the EU’s CFP for at least 21 months after Brexit day while not having a role in deciding the size of catches elsewhere in Europe.
Yet, Michael Gove, the environment secretary, reportedly suggested to the cabinet last year that the UK would “take back control” of its waters on Brexit day, with new quotas on every type of fish, from herring to crabs, lobsters and cold-water prawns.
The Scottish Fishing Federation, which has been lobbying for a 21% increase in the UK’s share of the total North Sea cod quota, among other demands, described the EU position as unacceptable.
Sandberg, who has been Norway’s fisheries minister for four years, said it was important to his government, however, that a transition period was put in place for the fisheries sector to allow for successful talks over the future.
Sandberg said: “To accommodate the future three-party setting between EU, Norway and UK we need to establish a new legal and institutional framework for management of joint fish stocks in the North Sea.
“We will need to agree on complex issues such as how to organise access to fish in each other’s waters, cooperate on surveillance and control, and maybe develop a system for exchange of fishing opportunities.
“Undoubtedly, there will be challenging issues, but we are not starting from scratch. A key goal is to secure a smooth transition period and finish in time to avoid any vacuum in the institutional arrangements that can hamper the fisheries in the North Sea”.