Fishing fury: Boris’ Brexit deal has left us facing ‘apocalypse’, warns industry chief
Boris Johnson ‘sacrificed fishing industry’ says June Mummery
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And Jeremy Percy, chairman of the New Under Tens Fishermen’s Association (NUFTA) has said the problems are perfectly encapsulated by the ongoing wrangle over the export of shellfish to the continent. Concerns over EU rules which currently prevent UK companies from exporting live shellfish such as oysters and mussels to the continent have prompted Environment minister George Eustice to write a letter of protest to Stella Kyriakides, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety.
However, Mr Percy, whose organisation represents boats under ten metres in length, said the Government only had itself to blame.
Mr Percy, who outlined his concerns in a comment piece written for Express.co.uk, said: “Among all the examples of EU Exit carnage inflicted on the fishing industry, the complete ban on the export to the EU of almost all live bivalves, such as mussels and clams has had possibly the worse real time impact, with businesses built up over many years on the verge of losing everything.
“George Eustice has claimed repeatedly that this ban was the fault of the EU, that he was surprised that the EU had changed their position and that the ban had been sprung upon us rather casually.
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“The legislation has in fact been in existence for some years and the truth of the matter only became clear when a letter from Mr Eustice, written on December 10 showed that he had in fact been aware of the forthcoming apocalypse at that time.”
Mr Percy claimed the enthusiasm of the “larger scale sector of the fleet”, which relies on quota, had effectively drowned out the voices of smaller scale fishermen such as himself, who relied on shellfish exports, and who had been voicing their concerns for “many months”.
He added: “We are promised world leading fisheries management and an opportunity to revisit the deal in five and a half year’s time.
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“Unless there is a rapid and dramatic approach by Government to the former then the latter date will be meaningless as many of the smaller scale, sustainable fishermen that Brexit promised to protect and prosper will not be around to see it.”
Mr Eustice clashed with shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard last week after the latter claimed the fishing sector had “lost trust and confidence” in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Pollard said: “Fishing boats are tied up, fish exporters are tied up with red tape.
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“Fishing was promised a sea of opportunity but the reality is many fishing businesses are on the verge of collapse.
“Much of the so-called extra fish may not even exist or be able to be caught by British boats.
“The fishing industry feels betrayed. Isn’t now the time for the Secretary of State to apologise to the fishing industry for the Brexit deal his Government negotiated?”
Mr Eustice replied: “I’ve made clear all along that the Government had hoped to get closer to a zonal attachment sharing arrangement in that first multi-annual agreement, but there is a significant uplift of 25 percent of the fish that the EU has historically caught in our waters that they’ve been required to forfeit as the price for continued access.
“That additional fishing quota is worth £140 million.”
Meanwhile a statement published on the website of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) voiced concerns that the Scottish industry was being given “priority” by the Government ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections in May.
The NFFO statement said: “One reason for the priority given to Scotland may lie with the fact that elections for the Scottish Parliament are due in May, with a second referendum on the union hanging in the balance.
“Likewise, fears are mounting south of the border, that the lion’s share of additional quota secured as part of that Christmas Eve deal will be used to placate nationalist sentiments in Scotland.”
The NFFO added: “Fishing does not occur in a political vacuum. From the UK’s departure from the EU, to devolution and decarbonisation of the economy, fishing has been repeatedly caught the crosscurrents of major political forces.
“The current real and present danger, as we try to find a way forward after the catastrophic outcome of the TCA, is that we will now be forced to play second fiddle to devolution and independence politics.”
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