Failure by the government to gain full control of access to UK waters in the next phase of Brexit negotiations would be a “colossal betrayal” of the fishing industry.
That was the uncompromising message delivered today by the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation prior to the UK’s formal exit from the EU on Friday.
SFF chief executive Elspeth Macdonald said: “We are now entering the transition period, and for our members that means a phased exit from the Common Fisheries Policy that must be completed by the end of this year.
“But if we are to secure the benefits that leaving the CFP will bring, the Sea of Opportunity that lies just over the horizon, the UK must have sovereignty over who catches what, where and when in our waters.
“To be clear, we have never said that we wanted to deny EU vessels the opportunity to fish in UK waters post-Brexit. Our consistent position has been that we want unfettered control over access. Then, as a coastal state, we can negotiate with the EU and others on an annual basis in international forums.
“This is what Norway, Iceland and Faroe – and indeed the EU itself – do. Over time this will allow the UK to obtain a much fairer share of the quota in its own waters than the 40% it is entitled to under the CFP.”
Ms Macdonald added: “There is still a palpable feeling within the industry that it was let down badly when the UK joined the CFP. Any failure to leave it on the right terms would be a colossal betrayal.”
She further highlighted the need for the forthcoming Fisheries Agreement that will be negotiated between the UK and the EU27 to set out over-arching principles and not become burdened with technical details of fisheries management.
Ms Macdonald also emphasised that there could be no link between access to UK waters and EU market access.
“The government cannot surrender to pressure from the EU on trade – there is simply no precedent for this in any EU fisheries agreement with third parties and it would compromise the key principle of sovereignty over access to our waters.
“The Scottish fishing industry is not a bargaining chip, but a sector that has been subjected to a historic wrong that needs to be put right.”
In the past fortnight an SFF team has been pressing senior ministers and the Prime Minister himself to uphold their promises to take back full control of UK waters.