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What did Michel Barnier, EU’s Chief Negotiator, mean about EU fishing rights in UK waters?

He is reported to have said, that while the UK would regain full sovereignty over its waters post-Brexit, the fish in those waters were ‘another story’.

Is it even possible that this is what he said, or meant? Keep in mind that he served as French Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries for two years, and whatever you think of him, he is usually at the top of his game?

What are the facts about this?

Let’s see what he actually said when he gave an online talk on the state of the Future Relationship negotiations, organised by Ireland’s Institute of International and European Affairs. (You can see the full video on YouTube with fishing matters from about 51 minutes).

‘Becoming an independent coastal code (state), obviously the UK will recover full sovereignty on their waters – no doubt and no question on this point. But it is another thing, another story, speaking about the fish which are inside the waters.’.

 ‘Looking [at] and respecting the international regulations and also what must be done on this issue, we think that we have to speak about the quota share to find a sustainable, long-term and balanced agreement with the UK.’ 

He was saying that sovereignty over the waters and sovereignty over the fish in those waters are two different things.

What does International Law say about this?

Under International Law, this is wrong.  In International Law ‘fishing waters’ are referred to as Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ), which are defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and reach to 200 nautical miles from a nation’s coastline. In cases where countries are closer to each other the waters are divided equally.

The convention also states that:

 In the exclusive economic zone, the coastal State has:

‘(a) sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, of the waters superjacent to the seabed and of the seabed and its subsoil, and with regard to other activities for the economic exploitation and exploration of the zone, such as the production of energy from the water, currents and winds;’

It couldn’t be clearer. Barnier’s remarks are  wrong. This is one example, of many, of the EU breaking the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, thus making the agreement null and void.

I’ll be expanding on this in a future post, especially the actual Articles in UNCLOS which refer to this.

More from the online talk on the state of the Future Relationship negotiations

Michel Barnier also stated, in the same interview, and I quote:

‘Let us just recall, it is my mandate, and I just want to mention that the mandate is very clear, there will be no trade agreement between the UK and the EU without a credible framework on level playing field, what I called fair play, economic and trade fair play, and without a sustainable agreement and balanced agreement on fisheries. There will be no trade agreement between the EU and the UK without these two points (being) resolved before.

These are the same tactics used by the EU when ‘negotiating’ with Theresa May, who, never forget, was an ardent ‘Remainer’.

These tactics, of demanding a solution to one point in the negotiations, before they will allow any other points to be even discussed, are in direct contravention of the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration, (which were mainly written by Michel Barnier)

Similar tactics have been used in relation to the ‘Irish’ problem, which I will go into in a future post.


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