Brexit row as Boris has ‘thrown fishing industry under a trawler’

Brexit: Fishing industry was ‘lied’ to claims Luke Pollard

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A Brexit row has exploded after Boris Johnson was accused of “throwing the fishing industry under a trawler” with UK boats being “bullied” out of waters they spent generations fishing in. The fishing agreement between Britain and the European Union said there would be a five-year transition period during which little would change that would see EU boats continue to gain access to UK waters until 2026. Former Prime Minister Mr Johnson had previously insisted “taking back control” of fishing was one of the prizes of ending Britain’s 47-year membership to the EU.

But more than three years on from that agreement being signed, furious UK fisherman feel “betrayed” by the Government over the post-Brexit deal they have been dealt – with many struggling to even fish in their own coastal waters.

Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland, and Vice Chair of the House of Commons All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fisheries, told “The UK Government has absolutely thrown the fishing industry under a trawler.

“If you speak privately to Conservative Party MPs who were making the promises, they all know that as well.

“Those in fishing ports, in the South West of England, Cornwall, Devon, around the Scottish coasts and islands – they can see it for themselves. There is a widespread feeling of everything from disappointment to betrayal.

“Those running these businesses are often carrying millions of pounds of bank borrowing and they can see from their own balance sheets they are not getting what they were promised.

Mr Carmichael accused the UK Government of breaking various promises made to the fishing industry, claiming any changes that have occurred, are “changes for the worse”.

He claims massive European trawlers, some of whom he says use gillnets that can be several kilometres long in the British coastal waters, are “bullying our fishing trawlers off traditional fishing grounds”.

The Lib Dem MP for Orkney and Shetland said: “For everything that was promised to the fishing industry, the reality is it has been universally the opposite.

“The opportunities to make our own decisions in terms of how we manage the fisheries, who can fish in our water, what they can fish for – I don’t think many people see much change and any change they do see, is change for the worse.

“Fishermen were given promises over who was allowed to fish and how they were allowed to fish but that hasn’t changed at all.

“For example, there are trawlers that fish using gillnets to the west of Shetland. They are sometimes kilometres long and left to sit in the water. It is the most unsustainable fishing practice imaginable

“They are sitting in the water, so it excludes local fishermen from getting access to grounds that they have fished in for generations.

“EU trawlers bullying our fishing trawlers off traditional fishing grounds is the kind of thing we were promised would not happen after Brexit, but still it continues.”

The boss of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, the main British trade organisation representing British fishermen in relation to European fishing regulations, has also accused Mr Johnson of broken promises, claiming large parts of the industry see this as a “betrayal”.

He said “the one that hurts most” is a 12 mile limit that was an exclusive UK red line but that European vessels continue to fish within that boundary.

Mr Deas told “The Trade and Cooperation Agreement was a huge disappointment to most in the fishing industry because it fell very far short of the promises that had been made by Boris Johnson and Lord Frost.

“The quota shares we receive are very far away from what a normal coastal state might expect. The changes were marginal and mostly went to the mackerel fisheries – not the fisheries where there is an acute shortage of quota.

“We were promised an exclusive 12 mile limit that was an exclusive UK red line but European vessels continue to be allowed to fish between the 6-12 mile limits.

He added: “There was one new dimension which was all non-quota species were lumped together with catch limits.

“So, we are allowed to catch 12,000 tonnes of non-quota species in EU waters but the EU fleet is allowed to catch 30,000 tonnes in our waters That lack of symmetry and balance that was there in the CFP is there under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

“But the one that hurts most is the 6-12 mile limit where you might have a small boat that can’t get to sea because of bad weather, but they look out at the six mile line, and there are EU vessels continuously operating.

“UK fishermen feel very let down because there were a lot of promises made but very little has been delivered. Large parts of the fishing industry view this as a betrayal.”

Shortly after the trade deal with the EU was signed, then-Prime Minister Mr Johnson admitted concessions were made to Brussels but insisted for the first time since 1973, the UK would have “full control” of its waters.

He said at the time: “The EU began with I think wanting a transition period of 14 years, we wanted three years, we’ve ended up at five years.

“That was a reasonable transition period and I can assure great fish fanatics in this country that we will as a result of this deal be able to catch and eat quite prodigious quantities of extra fish.

“For the first time since 1973 we will be an independent coastal state with full control of our waters with the UK’s share of fish in our waters rising substantially from roughly half today to closer to two thirds in five-and-a-half years’ time.

“After that, there is no theoretical limits beyond those placed by science or conservation on the quantity of our own fish that we can fish in our waters.”

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