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EU fishing betrayal: Reason Norway was treated with ‘goodwill’ exposed as UK faces row

BREXIT means the UK can finally regain control of its fishing waters, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing some serious resistance from the EU, despite the fact Norway was treated with “goodwill” on the same issue in the Seventies, documents unearthed by Express.co.uk reveal.

PUBLISHED: 05:50, Wed, Mar 25, 2020 | UPDATED: 08:20, Wed, Mar 25, 2020



Currently, the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), which has existed in its current form since 1983, states that all EU countries have access to each other’s waters. Upon leaving the bloc, the UK will have jurisdiction over an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which includes a vast swathe of ocean up to 200 nautical miles from its shores, as per UN convention. Meanwhile Norway is outside the EU but allows UK boats to fish in its own EEZ in return for market access, as well as the right to fish in EU, and particularly UK, fishing waters.


Unlike the UK, Norway actually had a referendum as to whether it should enter the EEC in 1972, in which it voted not to join the bloc, 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent.

Instead, the UK had a retrospective referendum in 1975 that asked whether Britons wanted to leave a bloc it had just joined – 67 percent of the public voted to stay in versus 33 percent to leave.

Norway later had a referendum on joining the newly formed EU in 1994, in which Norwegians again rejected the offer, this time by 52 percent of the vote.

According to recent polling data from Sentio, Norway is even more determined to remain outside the EU now, with only 22 percent wanting to join and 67 percent wanting to stay out.


brexit fishing boris johnson

Boris Johnson has clashed with the EU over UK fishing waters (Image: GETTY)

The reasons for this are often around fishing, bureaucracy, regulations and a lack of democracy and sovereignty inside the EU.

After Norway’s 1972 ‘no’ result, it entered into a period of negotiations with the bloc as to what their relationship would look like, not unlike Brexit negotiations are now.

Documents unearthed at the National Archives by Express.co.uk have revealed that the UK wanted to enter into these negotiations with “goodwill”.

A letter from the British embassy in Oslo to the UK Foreign Office read: “In brief, the pattern of the sort of agreement that is likely to emerge from the negotiations is, I imagine, fairly clear already and the problem is essentially whether we should approach the negotiations in a spirit of good will.

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“My own feeling is that we should.”

The argument was that if the bloc was ever going to persuade Norway to join the bloc, it would not get very far by acting poorly in negotiations.

Instead, it hoped that Norwegians would change their mind in two to five years time and that, by negotiating in good faith, this would aid this.

What’s more, at the time Norway was considering extending its fishing limits to 50 miles while Brussels, and the UK in particular, wanted to mitigate this possibility.


European fisheries

European fisheries (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

The reason behind the “goodwill” towards Norway can therefore be explained because the country one day gaining EEC membership was still considered an option. It would appear Brussels does not feel the same with Britain today.

In talks with the UK, the EU has been very difficult to deal with throughout Brexit negotiations and definitely did not give off a feeling of “goodwill”.

In fact, when it came to fisheries, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has continually pushed for the EU to retain access to British waters.

Despite Mr Johnson’s insistence that UK fisheries will be under British control, officials claimed that fisheries negotiation would be done “within the context of the overall economic partnership, including a direct link with negotiations on trade in goods”.

EU leaders, concerned about their fishing communities losing access to the plentiful UK fishing waters, which contain around six times the fish stocks as the rest of the EU put together, are playing hardball over negotiations.

European fisheries

European fisheries (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

In this way, it appears they are working with the idea that the default is EU access, instead of the default being UK control over its own EEZ, granting access to those it wishes to.

In other ways too, EU leaders have been accused of being obstructionist in the Brexit negotiations.

With the same logic that “goodwill” negotiating could win over the hearts of Norwegians, the fact that the EU has acted in the opposite way towards the British has only led to Brexit solidifying in the hearts and minds of those in the UK.

According to a YouGov poll in February, only 27 percent of Britons believe the UK will ever rejoin the EU, with 49 percent believing it will not and 24 percent do not know.

ursula von der leyen

Ursula von der Leyen has pushed for continued access for EU boats in UK waters (Image: GETTY)

The British embassy in Oslo back in 1972 made an eerily similar point.

They wrote: “It would be more helpful to the pro-marketeers and more damaging for the anti-marketeers if we could prove to both sides that, with the best will in the world, a trade agreement cannot, in the nature of things, afford to Norway all the benefits of full membership of the EEC.

“Only then may the anti-marketers come round to them recognising the error of their ways.

“And when the time comes, the closer Norway is to Europe the easier will be the transition to full membership.

“On the other hand, we start the negotiations in a general spirit of “let them stew!, I am not at all sure that, far from forcing these stubborn people to change their minds quickly, we may not rather make them dig in their toes, threated to leave and eventually leave NATO and look for other markets for their goods in eastern Europe.”

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