Norway, UK Preparing for Joint ‘Cod War’ Against EU


by Igor Kuznetsov

The Norwegian Coast Guard has increased its presence in the North Sea and is monitoring the situation to be ready in the event of an escalation. Its commander, Oliver Bredal, cited mutual understanding with the UK and emphasised that access denial to Norwegian economic zones will be primarily aimed at the EU fishing fleet.

The Norwegian Navy has confirmed that they have increased the presence of Coast Guard vessels in the North Sea in anticipation of Brexit.

The Norwegian government announced that fishing boats from lands without a valid fishing agreement with Norway would be banned from Norwegian territorial waters starting from New Year onwards.

“If we don’t have agreements as of 1 January, we will not open Norway’s zone for fishing to vessels from the EU and the UK,” Minister of Fisheries and Seafood Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen said, as quoted by the news outlet Klar Tale. “Nor can we expect Norwegian vessels to gain access to their zones until we have agreements,” he added.

However, Norway and the UK may finalise a joint new fisheries agreement already in the New Year, the newspaper Nationen reported. This means that the Coast Guard is first and foremost prepared to chase the EU fishing fleet out of fishing zones belonging in Norway.

Commander Oliver Berdal, the new head of the Coast Guard, confirmed that the Coast Guard has increased its presence in the North Sea and is monitoring the situation to be ready in the event of an escalation.

“We are prepared to deploy more vessels in the North Sea if necessary. But so far, we have no indications that this will be necessary immediately”, Berdal said.

He emphasised that he perceives the relations between Norway and the UK as clarified and that access denial to Norwegian economic zones at the turn of the year is primarily aimed at the EU fishing fleet.

Earlier this month, four UK Royal Navy vessels were sent to patrol Britain’s fishing waters. With no positive prospects for an EU-UK post-Brexit deal in sight, the 80-metre boats are expected to guard British waters from European vessels.

Norway has been cooperating on fisheries with the EU for over 40 years. The cooperation implies, among other things, that Norwegian fishermen have been able to fish in EU waters, and vice versa. – Negotiations with the EU and the UK on fishing agreements for 2021 have been delayed due to postponed Brexit negotiations.

British fisheries have been one of the most sensitive points in EU-UK negotiations. Britain has called for the annual renegotiation of fishing quotas, insisting that access should be determined with each country separately. On 24 November, the Fisheries Act 2020 passed into law, annulling the automatic access to British fishing grounds given to foreign boats and establishing a new licensing regime in the UK fishing industry. The EU, by contrast, has been opposing the UK’s intention to control its waters, as over 60 percent of the catch is fished by foreign vessels.

The name “Cod Wars” originally referred to a series of diplomatic skirmishes between the UK and Iceland over fishing rights in the north Atlantic, starting in 1958 and finishing in 1976. Over the course of the “wars”, Iceland gradually expanded its coastal zone to 200 miles, enraging the UK. The Cod Wars ultimately came to an end when NATO stepped in to help resolve the issue. However, a memorandum of understanding has been reached with Iceland since Brexit.



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