In a joint letter to the Prime Minister, the representatives of the UK fishing industry – SFF and NFFO – have today urged the Government to stand firm in the Brexit negotiations to ensure that sovereignty is regained over our waters and fishing opportunities agreed in international discussions.
The full text of the letter is below:
Dear Prime Minister
As the government enters into the final stages of the negotiations on the UK’s future relationship with the EU, we are writing to you to press the case once more for securing a successful outcome for the fishing industry. There is no better example of how leaving the EU can bring an immediate and demonstrable benefit for the UK.
The EU’s unreasonable and legally unsustainable position reflects the deeply unfair situation that has persisted since the creation of the Common Fisheries Policy, when so much was lost to our industry here in the UK. It simply cannot be right for an independent island nation to give away 70% of the fish caught in our waters. Compare and contrast this with our friends and neighbours in Norway, whose fleet catches well in excess of 80% of all the fish caught in Norwegian seas. In Iceland the figure is even higher, exceeding 90%.
Both SFF and NFFO have welcomed the repeated assurances by you and your government that at the end of this year, the UK will reclaim sovereignty and control access to our exclusive economic zone through annual negotiations with the EU as sovereign equals, just as the EU does with other independent countries, and that your government will not accept any proposals that compromise this.
We must be in a position to negotiate annually and have a much fairer share of the resources in our own waters. These rights to control and manage our waters will return automatically once we leave the CFP and are no more and no less than other independent coastal States like Norway, and indeed like the EU itself, are entitled to.
In effect, it is up to the EU which of two routes it wishes to take towards the UK becoming a coastal State – through a stable framework agreement that respects UK sovereignty and follows similar arrangements that the EU has with other coastal states in the north-east Atlantic, or via a much more uncertain route for the EU, with no framework agreement in place.
No other country in the world gives away its fish in the way the UK has for the last 40 years. This is the time to right these wrongs. This is the UK’s once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – the Sea of Opportunity – to climb the ladder of successful seafood nations and for the UK to reap the greatest benefit from our sovereign natural resources – not to continue to give them away for the benefit of others.
We have never been in a stronger position than we are now, and SFF and NFFO stand ready to welcome the right deal on fishing. Any Fisheries Agreement must be judged on its own merits as to whether it is in the best long-term interests of the sector, because the wrong deal on fishing would constitute failure to deliver on those promises made to the industry, and would perpetuate the deeply unfair arrangements under EU membership. Anything given away now will never be regained, so we urge you hold firm and bring back a deal that our proud industry can get behind.
Elspeth Macdonald, Chief Executive, SFF
Barrie Deas, Chief Executive, NFFO