Fishermen’s leaders today urged ministers to rule out a long Brexit transition for the industry to ensure clarity for UK fleets as they leave the Common Fisheries Policy.
Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of umbrella body the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said that to fit in with the calendar of international fisheries negotiations, a nine-month “bridge” is all that is required.
The industry is determined to resist any attempts to force it to comply with EU regulations beyond what is necessary.
Mr Armstrong said: “A transition period should be precisely that, not an excuse simply to extend by two years the period during which we are shackled to the utterly inequitable and hopelessly inadequate Common Fisheries Policy.
“The Prime Minister was clear in her Florence speech that for certain sectors of the economy matters could be settled more quickly than two years.
“And the case for a nine-month ‘bridge’ for the fishing industry is absolutely compelling.”
On behalf of the industry, Mr Armstrong has written to ministers in both of Scotland’s governments to set out the position.
“At the December Council of European fisheries ministers in Brussels this week, fishing opportunity will be set for member states, including this country, for 2018.
“By December 2019, nine months after we have formally left the EU, we will have attended the series of negotiations setting sustainable fishing opportunity in the north-east Atlantic as an independent Coastal State – any other approach would make no sense whatsoever.
“There is no need for a fishing related cliff-edge, either on Brexit day or almost three years later (a two-year transition for fishing would turn into two years and nine months – up to December Council 2021).
“The bridge would give clarity and assurance to the UK fleets and those of the EU member states. Some argue that we should close our EEZ as the clock strikes midnight the day we leave the EU. That is foolhardy. Our bridge is practical, reasonable and conducive to mature relationships in the future.”
Mr Armstrong highlighted the fact that fishermen have been pressing government to take back control of UK waters as quickly as possible to restore equilibrium to the balance of fishing effort – at present almost 60 per cent of the fish caught in the UK EEZ is landed by boats from other EU countries.
“The change in governance of our own natural resource will, if properly handled, bring real and lasting benefit. In the sea of uncertainty that exists right now, the one part that increasingly unites all is the position on fishing – the Sea of Opportunity.”