Time to end 40 years of hurt! Scottish fishermen celebrate as Brexit victory ‘in sight’

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The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation fired the warning to the Prime Minister’s chief negotiator with Brussels as he held crunch trade talks with the bloc. Its chief executive Elspeth Macdonald called on Lord Frost to stick his guns as details of a potential fisheries compromise emerged. Under new plans presented by British negotiators, the EU would be offered a three-year transition period to allow European boats to prepare for the changes.

Fishing opportunities for EU vessels would be “phased down” between 2021 and 2024 to offer coastal communities time to adapt to the changes.

The plans were presented as an eleventh hour attempt by Lord Frost to break the Brexit logjam.

In a letter to the Brexit envoy, Ms Macdonald wrote: “This has been a long road for the Scottish fishing industry, but the end of the UK’s membership of the Common Fisheries Policy is now in sight.

“The CFP has, for 40 years, given away the majority of fish in UK waters for the benefit of the EU fleet, to the huge detriment of our own industry.

“We are now very close to being able to right that wrong, to reclaim sovereignty and control access to our exclusive economic zone and to have a much fairer share of the resources in our own waters.”

She added: “It is imperative at this crucial stage that the UK remains steadfast. Securing the right outcome from these fisheries negotiations will deliver an immediate and demonstrable economic benefit. There is no clearer example of success than regaining our sovereignty for the benefit of the UK.”

European sources have suggested proposals could be an acceptable fudge to allow the bloc to climbdown from its demand of status quo access to Britain’s fishing grounds.

A European diplomatic source said: “We have a long way to go but if the other problematic issues can be sorted, it doesn’t look like fisheries will stand in the way of the agreement.”

And Government sources insisted Lord Frost would “ensure that Brexit delivers the benefits that fishing communities have been asking for”.

The move came as the UK signed its first independent fisheries deal for more than 40 years with Norway.

Under the pact, both sides will hold annual negotiations on fishing opportunities, a key demand for No10 in the Brexit talks with the EU.

Pressure is mounting on the Government not to trade-off access to Britain’s coastal waters to secure a trade pact with Brussels.

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Barrie Deas, of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, said he was confident No 10 would not fold.

He said: “What we wouldn’t agree to is surrendering fishing rights in order to have a trade deal.

“There is no expectation within the UK fishing industry that the UK will back down on fisheries.

“If anything, the commitments that have been made to the industry are stronger now than when the negotiations started.

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“We’ve been given clear and unequivocal commitments.”

Mr Deas also insisted Lord Frost has “leverage” over the EU to secure an industry-boosting deal for coastal communities.

He said: “The UK has quite a lot of leverage because the EU fleets fish around five or six times more in our waters compared to our fleets fishing in EU waters.”

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