In December 2014, the EU was accused of defying scientists’ advice when they pledged to allow UK fishermen to land more fish. Going into 2015, the bloc was preparing to increase the quota for cod catches by five percent, though scientists advised that it should be cut by 20 percent. But the UK’s fisheries minister at the time, George Eustice, hailed the deal as a triumph for Britain’s dwindling fishing fleets. He said: “Although these were difficult negotiations, I am pleased that we were able to secure the best possible deal to ensure sustainable fisheries and a strong UK fishing industry.
“While fishermen had feared there would be major cuts, we were able to keep the same quota as last year for many species, in addition to important increases to the North Sea cod and haddock quota, which will benefit Scottish fishermen.”
Other victories for the UK included increased quotas on prawns – up by 15 percent, plaice up by the same number and haddock up by six percent.
While David Cameron’s government were buoyed by the decision, conservationist groups accused the EU of making “weak decisions”.
Andrew Clayton, of the Pew Charitable Trusts, which advocates a sustainable fisheries policy, said at the time: “After decades of failing to get to grips with overfishing, the new common fisheries policy was supposed to bind ministers to setting sustainable fishing limits this year.
“Instead, they have set a considerable number of [quotas] in excess of the level scientists advised, failing to meet the targets they set themselves for overfishing.
“These are weak decisions, jeopardising the livelihoods of fishermen and the sustainability of stocks.”
While the new arrangement was supposed to stop the discarding of fish, some conservationists also feared these rules would be ignored.
The EU defended their agreement with the UK.
European commissioner for the environment, Karmenu Vella, said after the deal was concluded: “We have succeeded in increasing the number of stocks that are now managed at sustainable levels.
READ MORE: Brexit talks row: UK fury at ‘offensive and illogical’ EU plan exposed
The current standoff has centred around regulatory alignment and fisheries.
During the referendum campaign in 2016, leavers such as Boris Johnson vowed that the UK will be free from EU regulation and will take full control of its fishing grounds.
While the PM wants a trade deal, the EU’s negotiator – Michel Barnier – has told the UK it must accept a “level playing field” and leave its fishing grounds open if it is to keep access to European markets.
Today, Mr Barnier has met up with David Frost – the UK’s chief negotiator – for the first face-to-face negotiations in Brussels since the coronavirus outbreak.