THE FISHING industry has expressed deep concern over EU calls for existing reciprocal access to fishing waters being maintained after Brexit.
Shetland Fishermen’s Association’s Simon Collins said the idea was “completely unacceptable”, while chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation Bertie Armstrong added that “this latest gambit must be rejected”.
The call from the EU is featured in new draft proposals for upcoming negotiations as the UK withdraws from the union in 2019.
In a section about working towards a free trade agreement, the EU’s document says “trade in goods, with the aim of covering all sectors, which should be subject to zero tariffs and no quantitative restrictions with appropriate accompanying rules of origin.
“In this context, existing reciprocal access to fishing waters and resources should be maintained.”
The fishing industry is in direct conflict with the isles’ valuable fish farming and seafood processing industry which would hugely benefit form the continuation of tariff free access to its main markets within the EU.
The UK government meanwhile maintains that the country will leave the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy and regain control over its waters after Brexit, and it said future arrangements are to be negotiated with the EU.
Collins however said that maintaining the status quo would not work for the industry as UK fishermen are catching less than half of the fish in their country’s waters.
“What we want is to take control of our waters upon Brexit, and use that control to manage our seas better and to obtain fairer shares of quotas for our fishermen. Nothing more, nothing less.
“The point is that once we leave the EU it then becomes us, the UK, to decide who fishes in our waters, when, and for what and for how long. That’s entirely normal outside the EU.
“I’m astonished that the EU parliament should decide anything else makes sense. It’s an absurd position to start from.”
Armstrong said: “There cannot be ‘fairer shares’ for our fishing communities if we maintain existing reciprocal access.
“This latest gambit must be rejected. When we leave the EU we leave the Common Fisheries Policy and assume our rightful place at the table as a coastal state. Each year we will then decide who catches what, where and when.
“The days of the EU taking 60 per cent of our fish are coming to an end. The sea of opportunity is within reach.”