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Scottish fishermen back Boris’ Brexit fishing stance in blow to SNP
September 5, 2020
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The UK Government’s Fisheries Bill will give the UK the power to operate as an independent coastal state and manage its fish stocks sustainably outside the EU. The Tories Bill passed the House of Lords on July 1 and had a second reading in the House of Commons this week.
The Bill ends current automatic rights for EU vessels to fish in British waters and will also enable the Fisheries Administrations to ensure foreign vessels follow the same rules as British vessels if access to UK waters for foreign vessels is negotiated in Brexit talks.
Highlands and Islands Tory MSP Donald Cameron traded arguments with Argyll MP Brendan O’Hara after the Tories voted through the Bill to proceed to Parliamentary Committees but 44 Scottish National Party MPs voted against.
Mr Cameron branded the SNP’s objection to the bill as a “betrayal” of fishermen but Mr O’Hara described the comments as ‘“desperate stuff” designed to deflect attention.
The SNP party have argued that no further amendments to the bill should be made until the outcome of the Brexit trade negotiations is known.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said the SNP’s position on fishing was “pathetic” stressing they would “rather bow down to Brussels than hand power back to fishermen and communities” across Scotland.
Elspeth Macdonald, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and Barrie Deas, who leads the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations hinted that annual negotiations would have to take place if a deal could not be reached.
In a joint statement, they said: “For the fishing industry in the UK, leaving the Common Fisheries Policy has always been about redressing a fundamental issue: the woefully unfair allocation of quota shares in our waters, where the EU fleet has an unfettered right of access to the UK’s rich fishing grounds and fish five times more in UK waters than we fish in theirs.
“The only satisfactory means of ensuring that this is achieved is for the UK, as a sovereign coastal state, to maintain full control over access to our waters.
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“That does not mean denying EU vessels access to fish in the UK Exclusive Economic Zone.
“Rather, that such access would be negotiated annually – as is the norm for the EU and Norway and other non-EU fishing nations.
“Under international law, this will be the default position if a fisheries agreement cannot be reached.’
The groups said that they “fully support the Government’s negotiation position on fisheries”.
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However, they stressed it was ultimately “up to the EU which of the two routes it wishes to take towards the UK becoming a coastal state”,
Fergus Ewing MSP, Scotland’s Rural Economy Secretary warned Boris Johnson that Holyrood’s efforts at protecting Scottish fishing were at severe risk.
He said: “For four years, the Scottish Tories have promised our fishing industry everything, yet delivered absolutely nothing.
“We are now less than four months from the end of the Brexit transition period – and our vital Scottish fishing industry has no clarity whatsoever about future fisheries arrangements.
“And the Scottish Government’s hard-fought efforts to stand up for Scottish fishing are all being put at risk with the Tories’ so-called ‘internal market’ proposals.
“Successive Westminster governments have sold out Scotland’s fishing industry – and unfortunately, there have been no indications that this Tory government wouldn’t be prepared to do so again. The clock is ticking.
“The Tories need to start being honest about how they intend to secure a close economic partnership with the EU without putting fishing on the table.”
He previously said that he had seen repeated requests from the Scottish Government to participate in international negotiations on fishing denied.
Mr Ewing warned the UK Government denying Holyrood in negotiations would be detrimental.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has also objected to the UK leaving the EU highlighting that 62 percent of Scots voted to remain.
The Bill recently made its way through the House of Lords with Lord Gardiner making clear the legislation will give the UK an opportunity to develop a vibrant and sustainable fishing industry.
It will give the UK the power to strengthen protection of the marine environment, whilst providing a healthy and valuable food source to millions of people, he added.
The latest round of Brexit talks between Britain and the European Union are set to continue next week but have made very little progress.
Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost said the European Union’s stance over state aid and fisheries may limit the progress that can be made.
Frost said Britain had been clear from the beginning about what it could accept in those areas, which he said were “fundamental to our status as an independent country”
He added: “We will negotiate constructively but the EU’s stance may, realistically, limit the progress we can make next week.”
Victoria Prentis, Westminster’s Fisheries Minister said that the Bill would give the UK “the opportunity to set a gold standard for sustainable fisheries and gives us the powers to protect our precious fish stocks while enabling our seafood sector to thrive”.
She added: “Now that we have left the EU, we have the opportunity to create a more resilient and profitable fishing industry, leaving behind the outdated Common Fisheries Policy.”