British and EU boats may be stopped from fishing in Norwegian waters after January 1 as talks on a new agreement have been held up by the Brexit standoff.
The Scandinavian country usually forms an annual agreement with the EU on the management of common fish stocks, access to each other’s waters and exchange of fish quotas.
After Brexit, a trilateral agreement has to be agreed between Norway, the EU and Britain regarding North Sea fish that swim between the waters belonging to the three entities.
These negotiations have not yet started, meaning Norway, which is not part of the EU but is part of the European single market, is threatening to block access.
‘If we do not get a deal by Jan. 1, we will not open Norway’s economic fishing zones to vessels from the EU and Britain,’ fisheries minister Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen told the Norwegian parliament.
‘Neither can we expect Norwegian vessels to get access to their (the EU’s and Britain’s) zones before a deal is in place.’
Negotiations over a deal have been delayed because London and Brussels have not reached an accord governing their relations from the start of 2021, he said. Fisheries is one of the issues of contention in the talks between the UK and EU.
‘Norway is ready to start talks so that we can agree on total quotas for our common stocks in the North Sea. Our goal is to continue as normal, but for that we need clarity, quickly,’ Mr Ingebrigtsen later said in a statement.
In September, Norway and Britain agreed a so-called ‘framework’ agreement on which to base their future relations on fisheries – in what was hailed at the time as a landmark deal.
But before any bilateral deals can kick in, Oslo wants a trilateral deal in place, and Mr Ingebrigtsen said the EU has been slow to engage in the talks.
‘We’ve been telling the EU for a long time that we needed a three-way deal, and the ball is therefore now in the EU’s court,’ he added.
Norway’s rich fisheries attract fishermen from all over Europe, in particular for its stocks of cod in the Barents Sea, which are sustainable.
Each year, the UK fishing fleet lands £32 million worth of fish from Norwegian waters, the government said earlier this year.
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