God save the fish: the abyss of electoral politics in trade talks––a Brexit case study
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During the ‘exit negotiations’ between the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU), the relatively economically insignificant fishing industry received a disproportionate share of not just UK media attention, but global press as well; not to mention an array of political machinations which almost halted a free trade agreement between two of the world’s largest trading partners. This evaluation seeks to understand why such disproportional influence existed. Why were both the EU and the UK coming to blows over something as seemingly innocuous as fishing; why were they willing to risk the most significant trade agreement in recent European history over a few fish? Existing subject matter literature cites history and symbolism as the main factors that brought fishing into the limelight, almost gilling a multi-billion-dollar trade deal between these two primary trade partners. However, while this paper concurs with existing literature analysis, it finds further illumination in the murky waters of electoral politics. It argues that electoral politics also brought fishing to the trade talk surface as the Conservative Party leveraged the industry to demonstrate that they were protecting a disenfranchised industry, while aiming to convey the benefits of Brexit to maintain votes and prevent Scottish succession. On a broader scale, this paper is about the potential ramifications that domestic politicians have on free trade agreements, especially in this new global populist era where the leverage of the disenfranchised is key; it is an affirmation of the American saying that “all politics is local.
Honors thesis. B.A. in International Relations, Spring 2021, Boston University.