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Before negotiations on a future trade relationship between the UK and the European Union even started, the French government urged the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier to push for stronger commitments on regulatory alignments and access to UK fishing waters in return for maintaining free trade. Ever since the 2016 EU referendum, French President Emmanuel Macron has been championing the bloc’s fisheries demands. As he arrived at a summit of EU leaders last month, Mr Macron said: “In no case shall our fishermen be sacrificed for Brexit.
“If these conditions are not met, it’s possible we won’t have a deal. If the right terms can’t be found at the end of these discussions, we’re ready for a no deal for our future relations.”
Despite the French leader’s hardline stance, the UK insists any fishing agreement must be separate from the trade deal with access negotiated annually in a similar fashion to Norway’s agreement with the bloc.
Norway is an independent coastal state, with the rights and responsibilities under international law associated with that status. Stocks shared with the EU are managed through annual bilateral negotiations. Each autumn these talks set total allowable catches on the basis of scientific advice.
This contrasts starkly with the current position of the UK fishing industry within the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy – something Brussels wants to maintain at all costs.
But Norway is not alone in having struck a deal on fisheries similar to the one Britain is seeking.
According to unearthed reports, Mr Johnson should follow Greenland’s example when it comes to fishing during the EU trade negotiations, as the autonomous territory managed to strike a favourable deal.
Greenland left the bloc after a referendum in 1982.
As part of the Danish Kingdom, Greenland joined what was then the EEC in 1973 but, not long after its entry, the islanders started fighting for independence.
Greenlandic fishermen resented watching their fish stocks being hoovered up by factory trawlers from other member states.
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Soon after the 2016 Brexit referendum, former Greenland Prime Minister Lars-Emil Johansen, recalled that quitting the forerunner to today’s EU in 1985 had provoked a political storm and that the process took three lengthy years.
However, the storm was soon followed by economic growth once Greenland was free of Brussels.
Mr Johansen said: “It was a huge deal for domestic politics in Greenland.
“The doomsday prophets said that Greenland could never get an exit deal that would be as beneficial as the conditions under EEC membership.
“We had to do a lot of waiting.”
Mr Johansen noted that it was only after Greenland had left the bloc that the economy expanded and opponents were proven wrong.
Since then, Greenland’s leaders have consistently said that they are satisfied with the decision to leave.
According to a report published for the Law Library of Congress, post-departure Greenland needed to renegotiate its fisheries agreement with the EEC, ultimately providing EEC member states with the same access to Greenland waters as they had while Greenland was part of the EEC.
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However, they also gave Greenland the “ability to renegotiate the agreement’s terms every five years, with tariffs and quotas renegotiated on an annual basis” – which is exactly what Britain is asking during the current trade talks with the bloc.
The report added: “The fisheries agreement between Greenland, Denmark, and what is now the EU has changed over the years since the EU’s formal creation in 1993.
“Greenland still maintains both fishing and cooperation agreements with the EU.
“These agreements are renegotiated by Greenland, Denmark, and the EU every six years.
“The quotas on fisheries are renegotiated every year.
“The current protocol is in place from January 1, 2016, to December 31, 2020.
“The first agreement was in force for ten years from 1985 to 1995.
“Greenland negotiates its fisheries quotas by itself, but may request support from Denmark, as seen in the Danish role in mackerel negotiations.”
Aqqaluk Lynge, who was part of the negotiating team, told the BBC: “It was very difficult for the European Union and the Europeans to understand why we wanted to get out and why we didn’t want their money.
“But the fact is that there was no money.
“There was minimal investment in infrastructure which we needed badly.
“That’s why we could see there was no economic reason to stay.”
Greenland remains connected to the EU as a group of recognised overseas countries and territories (OCT) that includes Guadeloupe and the Canary Islands.
The EU remains its biggest export market.
Bryce Stewart, a marine ecologist and fisheries biologist at the University of York, told Rear Vision: “Greenland halibut and prawns are the mainstay of the Greenland fishery.
“These are cold water prawns, so a bit different from the ones in Australia, but very valuable and very popular in European markets.
“So although they are independent from Europe, they do actually allow some European boats to fish in their waters, and that’s a trade-off to give them access to the European export market that their fisheries actually rely on.”
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