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News Archive > General > Feelings of ‘betrayal’ over ‘sell out’ Brexit fishing deal

Feelings of ‘betrayal’ over ‘sell out’ Brexit fishing deal

By Natasha Swift 13th January 2021

Feelings of ‘betrayal’ over ‘sell out’ Brexit fishing deal
Mevagissey fisherman, Brackan Pearce, who voted to leave the EU, has now blasted the Brexit deal and believes that fishermen have been used by the Prime Minister

“We have been sold out just like fishermen were sold out when we joined the Common
Fisheries Policy all those years ago.”

That is the belief of Mevagissey fishermen who have accused the Prime Minister of being “Ted Heath mark two” and “betraying the UK fishing fleet” with his Brexit deal.

The UK left the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) on December 31, but under the deal agreed on Christmas Eve, the current rules will remain largely in place during a five and-a-half year transition period.

After that period, there will be annual consultations to establish the level and conditions
for EU access to British waters. The government said the trade deal provided for a significant
uplift in quota for UK fishers, equal to 25% of the value of the EU catch in UK waters.

The share of fish in British waters that the UK can catch will rise from about half now to two-thirds by the end of the five-and-a-half-year transition.

But fishermen believe that figure should have been much higher. If the UK does not comply
entirely with the new arrangements on quotas, then the EU can stop exports of fish, which is a major market for UK fishing.

The free trade agreement means UK fish exports will not attract tariffs, but exports will now require catch certificates, health certificates and be subject to new border controls.

Fishermen are also furious that EU boats will be able to work up to just six miles off the British coast. Under the deal, the 12 miles exclusive limit that Johnson promised will not be granted.

Full and absolute control of UK waters out to 200 miles - or the median line - was a stated
objective for the UK. Regaining control over UK waters was a big part of the Leave campaign in 2016.

The EU’s Common Fisheries Policy was the main reason why many fishermen in Mevagissey voted for Brexit. Brackan Pearce, 27, was one of those who voted to leave the EU to fight for the British fishing industry to claim back their territorial waters.

When Theresa May was Prime Minister she visited Mevagissey Social Club in 2017 where she met with local fishermen who were supporting her bid to take Britain out of the 1964 London convention, which allows European fishing vessels to access waters six to 12 nautical miles
from British shores.

But Brackan has blasted the Brexit deal and believes fishermen have been used by the Prime Minister. He said: “Boris has sold out the coastal community’s of the southwest and north east.

The same coast community’s Conservatives have used to win the last two elections. “The quota uplift we will reclaim will not benefit in inshore fisheries that need it the most. Instead the quota will go mainly to the large pelagic trawlers of Scotland.

“Failure to make the 6-12 nautical mile limit exclusive for UK only boats is inexcusable.” The Cabinet Office minister, Michael Gove, said the agreement the UK had struck with the EU was the “best possible deal” for the fishing industry as a whole. But Brackan has labelled it an insult.

Gove also spoke of a £100m funding package for the fishing industry, but Brackan is not impressed by what he calls a “sweetener” for a bad deal.

Brackan told the Voice: “The UK boats are not allowed to fish within 12 miles of the French coast but the French and other EU boats can come within six miles of our beaches, so they have a massive advantage over us and they still will and that is the sickest part of it all.

“They keep saying this will change in 5.5 years time, but that is wrong. If the EU think it will adversely affect them we will not be allowed access to their waters or they will impose tariffs on us.

“Boris Johnson has let the EU put us over a barrel. They just used the fishing community. Within the last couple of years there has been hope in the industry, which hasn’t been there since before I started fishing. That’s totally gone now. It has been blown out of the water.

Now it is worse than ever. “The industry has been sold out and betrayed. We are gutted. There will be some slight increase in fishing quotas, but it won’t really help us in the South West, it will mainly benefit Scotland.

“You know as soon as the government start offering out money that is it being used as a sweetener. It’s frustrating to see most MPs saying what a good deal it is as it will all change in 5.5 years but they have sold us out. If they came out and said we have had to let fishing go to get a good trade deal it would be better.

“When you have got Gove saying it’s a good deal it is an insult. We are completely over the barrel. We could have gone another six miles on the six to 12 mile limit. The smaller boats would have doubled their fishing quotas but they are never going to get that back now.

“I haven’t been out to sea since December 8 as we have had bad weather, but while we have been tied up there has been EU boats well within six miles of the harbour working through the weather.

There have been EU boats working over Christmas so that means there will be nothing to fish for us. It forces us to push our boats further offshore and away from our homes.

“It’s Ted Heath mark two. We have been sold out just like fishermen were sold out when we joined the Common Fisheries Policy all those years ago.”

Mevagissey Fishermen’s Association did not hold back on their thoughts about the deal, which they said had left them feeling “frustrated and depressed” with “very little optimism for the future” of the industry.

A spokesman told the Voice: “Mevagissey fishermen feel totally let down by the Brexit deal. In 2016 the Cornish Fish Producers' Organisation identified priorities for the fisheries component of Brexit.

“These were: the UK must ensure full and absolute control of UK waters out to 200 miles, and the existing 0 to 12 mile limit must be secured for the exclusive use of UK vessels. This has not happened. “The UK must secure a fairer and greater share of TACs of stocks in ICES Area V11, the area around the south-west. This has not happened.

“The UK must secure continued tariff free and unrestricted access to European markets. UK fish exports will not attract tariffs , but exports will now require catch certificates, health certificates and be subject to new border controls.

“It appears from internal sources that this deal was not endorsed by DEFRA, leading fisheries negotiators, or senior MPs.

“Control of our waters - six to mile 12 mile limit - was meant to be the starting point on all negotiations, and endorsed by everyone involved except one person.

“It has come to light, from a reliable senior DEFRA source, that Boris Johnson himself caved in, on Christmas Eve, when the French refused to open their borders and let transport  through from Dover. He threw in the towel and succumbed to the French demands on access.

“It looks as if we are now stuck with the French for the foreseeable future due to the roll over of ‘Grandfather Rights’ whenever they see fit - whenever they have another boat built.

“The £100m is seen as a little gesture to keep us quiet, but which will be squandered by the few who get it. “Fishermen think there is no point in expanding our fleet as the EU access is actually likely to increase. The quota share in our area will amount to between 1 and 3% total of all species over 5 years with no guarantee of any more after that.

“Fishermen are very frustrated and depressed about this and have very little optimism for the future. Once again the fishing industry has been used as a bargaining chip and Cornwall and the South-West have been almost entirely forgotten. “

The Cornish Fish Producers' Organisation believe the Cornish fishing industry has been “used and abused”.

They say the £100m support package spoken about by Johnson and Gove is “nothing more than a cheap insult and in truth is a pathetic attempt to cover what we and they know to be a betrayal of Cornish and British fishermen”.

The organisation said: “This was not a good deal for Cornish or British Fishermen. The anger and frustration were then compounded for fishermen by the outright lie that this was a good deal for fishing from the Prime Minister and others in Government.

“They should have the backbone to say the deal was good for UK in their opinion, but they had to sell out fishing to get that deal.

“Prior to the announcement of this agreement optimism in the fishing industry was at an all-time high, as promises of an exclusive 12-mile limit for UK inshore fishermen, fishing opportunities based on zonal attachment and control over regulations were all promised by Prime Minister, Secretary of State and many MPs.

“That optimism has been shattered by broken promises and betrayal by Boris Johnson and his Government in a Ted Heath style moment that saw fishing sacrificed again.

“The Cornish fishing industry has been used and abused; used as a poster boy and illustration of what the UK could gain through Brexit and taking back control. Abused by
being sold out in the final analyses for others. Any shred of trust fishermen had in politicians will be difficult to ever rebuild.

“The £100m support package spoken about by Johnson and Gove is nothing more than a cheap insult and in truth is a pathetic attempt to cover what we and they know to be a betrayal of Cornish and British fishermen.

“It has never been about money for fishermen it has been about a fair deal that secured
control over our fishing waters and a fair share of fishing opportunities (quota) based on zonal attachment.

“This is not the deal fishermen were promised and it is important MPs and the public understand this and are not misled by Government spin to the contrary.

“The UK Government has a responsibility now to support the Cornish and wider UK fishing industry with actions not words - proper control and regulation of EU fleets that will continue to fish within sight of Newlyn Harbour would be a good start.”

MP for St Austell, Steve Double, said: “I will be working with our local fishermen to ensure we make the very best of this deal and provide the best opportunity for them for the future.”

By Natasha Swift 13th January 2021

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