Scottish fishing chiefs have blasted plans for UK fisheries during the transition period out of the EU – with a Shetland representative describing the negotiations as “feeble”.
On Monday the EU and Britain agreed a draft Brexit transition deal which will mean Britain will follow EU fishing regulations during the transition period.
The UK will also only be able to consult on changes to fishing rules and will be consulted on fishing changes affecting the UK in that period.
The deal was to be rubber-stamped this week and the transition period will end on New Year’s Day 2020.
Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chief executive Bertie Armstrong said the announcement fell “far short of an acceptable deal”.
“We will leave the EU and leave the CFP [Common Fisheries Policy], but hand back sovereignty over our seas a few seconds later. Our fishing communities’ fortunes will still be subject to the whim and largesse of the EU for another two years.
“Put simply, we do not trust them to look after us. So we issue this warning to the EU: be careful what you do or the consequences later will be severe. To our politicians we say this: some have tried to secure a better deal but our governments have let us down.
“As a consequence, we expect a written, cast-iron guarantee that after the implementation period, sovereignty will mean sovereignty and we will not enter into any deal which gives any other nation or the EU continued rights of access or quota other than those negotiated as part of the annual Coastal States negotiations.”
Shetland Fishermen’s Association chief Simon Collins said the government had also handed control of British waters straight back to the EU.
“It leaves us very vulnerable,” he said.
“It says we are consulted, but it it’s a long way from sovereignty.”
Mr Collins said Britain would be consulted “on what we can catch in our own waters in that period”, and “as far as negotiations go, it’s pretty feeble negotiations”.
Politicians had collectively fallen short, he said, and the UK government was going to have to rebuild its trust with the fishing industry.
The Shetland fishing boss said on leaving the EU, under international law, and the UK government’s previous position, the UK would have control of its waters.
The fishing industry had gone from a strong position to a difficult one, he claimed.
“What we need to do as an industry… is to ensure that we get a concrete, written in stone, guarantee that we are leaving in 2020”. That would allow something to plan ahead with, Mr Collins said.
As far as the local industry was concerned, he hoped the impact would be limited.
“It’s as if there’s the first whiff of gun smoke and up goes the white flag. Even if you don’t care about fishing you worry about other things [in the Brexit negotiations].
“It puts us in a very difficult position for the interim period.”