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Committee reports on UK-EU-Norway fishing talks

9 December 2020

European Scrutiny Committee reports on UK-EU-Norway fishing talks, and the application of EU tariffs under the Northern Ireland Protocol  

In its latest report, the European Scrutiny Committee considers recent draft EU legislation and policy documents deposited in Parliament by the Government.

Each document is accompanied by an Explanatory Memorandum from the relevant Minister. The Committee examines the legal and political importance of the document and where appropriate asks further questions of the Government about its implications. The Committee also has the power to recommend documents for debate.

In its latest report the Committee highlights the importance of several documents, and how it intends to follow up with Government. These include:

DEFRA – UK-EU-Norway Fisheries Agreement

Important because:

  • This document provides further details about the UK’s future fishing relationship with the EU and Norway, in both the long-term and for 2021

Following the UK’s departure from the EU, fish stocks previously shared between the EU and Norway will now also be shared with the UK. This will require a trilateral agreement on a detailed governance arrangement but - given the expected time this long-term arrangement will take to negotiate - the Government has confirmed that, in the meantime, it expects to begin negotiations with Norway and the EU on annual Total Allowable Catches for shared North Sea Stocks in 2021 “imminently.”

DIT – Northern Ireland Protocol: application of tariff rate quotas and other import quotas

Important because:

  • This document is intended to prepare for the end of the post-Brexit transition period, specifically the implementation of EU customs laws in Northern Ireland under the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

This proposed regulation has been put forward by the European Commission to define EU customs territory when applying EU tariff rate quotas, which are set out by the EU in its Schedule of goods under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade at the World Trade Organization.

The proposed regulation says EU tariff rate quotas apply only to goods released into the Single Market in the territory of EU Member States, not Northern Ireland. The Commission has proposed the regulation in order to address the risk that goods may be routed through Northern Ireland into the EU Single Market, without counting towards EU tariff rate quotas. Under the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol, Northern Ireland will continue to follow the EU’s Customs Code.

In correspondence with the Committee, the Government has said that the full implications of the proposed regulation depend on the outcome of discussions between the UK and EU in the Joint Committee tasked with implementing the Withdrawal Agreement. The Joint Committee has yet to decide how to determine which goods entering Northern Ireland from outside the EU are at risk of entering the Single Market and attracting EU customs duties.

The Committee has replied to the Minister, requesting further details as to why it objects to the EU’s proposals, its assessment of the proposed regulation’s potential implications for businesses in Northern Ireland, and whether it hopes to see Northern Ireland benefit from both the UK’s and the EU’s quotas in the future.

Further information

Image: CCO