The two main UK fishing federations have said they are working together to secure the best possible deal from the EU withdrawal negotiations.
In a joint statement, Bertie Armstrong of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) and Barrie Deas of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) said: “As the Prime Minister has made crystal clear, at the conclusion of the transition period in December 2020, the UK will have the legal status, under international law, of an independent coastal state; with rights and responsibilities to manage the fisheries under its jurisdiction within the UK exclusive economic zone.
“Regarding responsibilities, the UK will continue to manage its fisheries responsibly and sustainably, including joint management of stocks that are shared with other countries. But it is equally important that that the UK’s ability to operate as a legally-constituted independent coastal state is not compromised by any concessions agreed as part of the Brexit deal.
“The EU’s stated preference for a free trade deal in return for access to fish in UK waters and quota shares is an absurd attempt to maintain the current unbalanced arrangement which results in 60% of the UK’s natural fish resources being given away. Acceptance of such an unprecedented and unprincipled link by UK negotiators would be regarded by the entire UK fishing industry as a gross betrayal and have grave electoral consequences.
“Future decisions on total allowable catches, quota shares and access arrangements should be made in the normal way in which coastal states work together – i.e. via annual bilateral fisheries agreements.”
On trade, the federations emphasised that supply chains within the UK and the EU are best served by free, unimpeded trade.
The statement concluded: “The whole UK fishing industry and its many friends among the general public and in the world of politics, will measure the Government’s negotiating achievements against three criteria: Actual as well as legal authority over all fishing activities within the UK EEZ, fisheries management decisions on shared stocks made through annual bilateral agreements, and free and frictionless trade in fish and fisheries products.”
Commenting, David Duguid, Scottish Conservative MP for Banff and Buchan, said: “I have been lobbying since the election to ensure we get the best possible deal for our fishermen as we leave the EU. Both the Prime Minister and the Brexit Secretary have made clear in recent days that the government will deliver for this vital industry.
“The key point is that we become an independent coastal state in December 2020 and we have control over our own exclusive economic zone (EEZ). At present, only 40% of fish caught in our waters are landed by UK boats. That must change and our fishermen deserve a fairer share.”