European Union ministers have agreed to extend the provisional fishing quotas agreed with the United Kingdom following Brexit to July 31.
Agriculture and fisheries ministers from the bloc's 27 national governments came to the agreement on Tuesday after overnight negotiations where they concluded that the new quotas - due to expire on March 31 - represented "a contingency plan".
Virginijus Sinkevičius, the European Commissioner for the environment, oceans, and fisheries told reporters in Brussels that he hoped the agreement would "only have a very short shelf life" so that a more "definitive" one can be reached soon.
"This agreement gives us time to conclude the ongoing negotiations with the UK and ensures that our fishermen and women can continue their operations after the expiry of the current provisional TACs (total allowable catches), next week on 31 March," Sinkevičius explained.
In December last year, while the outcome of talks on the post-Brexit trade agreement remained uncertain, member states renewed the 2020 catch quotas for stocks shared with the British for three months, in order to allow fishermen to continue their activity in the event of a "no-deal".
The precise quotas for 2021 were not agreed upon, however, and since then, tensions have escalated between the EU and the UK, meaning that hopes of reaching any agreement were dampened.
But Ricardo Serrão Santos, the Portuguese minister for maritime affairs, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU Council, told Euronews that he hopes this new temporary agreement will smooth out any other differences between the two sides.
"It is very, very important because this gives strength to the European Union on the negotiations with the UK," Santos said Tuesday.
"We have all the member states together on this compromise. We have to do the best deal in the interest of the European Union and the interest of the UK, so that we have a future together on all issues, be it fisheries, commerce or the environment."
The agreement concluded at the end of December between both parties means that European fishermen will have access to British waters for a transitional period of five and a half years until June 2026, during which they will have to gradually give up 25 per cent of their catch.