SHETLAND Fishermen’s Association spokesman Simon Collins has said the UK sovereignty over its own waters outweighs all other considerations for the fishing industry following news that the Brexit transitional period is likely to be extended.
THE SFA’S executive officer said that fisheries must be exempt from such an agreement. The industry has already said that guaranteed access to UK waters is its first “red line” that must not be conceded by the UK.
Collins said: “Once we concede control of our waters we have lost it forever. We still have the strongest hand imaginable once we control access.”
Extending the transition period further was a “second red line” for the industry that had already conceded the extension of the transitional period until the end of 2020.
“If fishing is included in this we will be urging our friends in parliament to vote against this. We cannot support a deal that takes us beyond 2020,” he added.
Shetland MSP Tavish Scott said on Tuesday that senior figures in the UK government and the European Union wanted to extend the transitional period, including fisheries, till 2022.
He added: “An extension to the period where fishing is controlled from Brussels without any representation is the worse possible news for the Shetland Industry.
“That means a longer period where local fishing is controlled by the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
“From next year this policy will be imposed on our industry, our boats and coastal communities without any representation from UK and Scottish Ministers. This is truly the worst of all worlds.
Scott is part of a cross party Scottish Parliament committee in talks with Euro MPs, commission members and representatives from the Scottish and UK governments.
He added “It is the opposite of what we have been told by the UK Government. They said we will be out of the CFP in 2019. Now it may be another three years before fisheries policy is a local responsibility.”
After a meeting with the European Parliament’s Brexit negotiation boss Guy Verhofstadt Scott said it was confirmed that on fisheries policy, the status quo would continue.
He added: “The status quo means that UK and Scottish fisheries ministers negotiate the share of fish quotas and other essential details that our industry depend on.
“But from 2019 it will be worse than that. Our ministers will have no right to attend and speak at these EU meetings. We will have a policy that must be followed but no ability to change that policy. This cannot be in our interests.
“The UK Government needs to explain why that have allowed this to happen.”
If the Brexit agreement is voted down by the House of Commons, it opens a range of possibilities like a reconfigured plan to be put before parliament within three weeks, a no deal Brexit or even trigger a general election or a second referendum.
Collins said that there had been no reason for fishing to have been included in the extension beyond 2019 and that extending the CFP till 2022 would not be accepted by the industry.
He added: “There must be no guarantee of access od EU fleets to our waters. Access should be managed case by case in the normal way. We are not going to be part of an extended intermediate period.”
Collins also shot down a provision in the draft text of the Brexit agreement linking a trade deal to access to UK waters.
“We do not want any link between trade and access,” he said, and added that any imposition of tariffs would amount to the EU “cutting off their nose to spite their face” as there was a £1 billion trade in fish either way between Britain and the EU.
Collins said that he remained optimistic that no deal would be imposed on the fishing industry that would be worse than what it had started out with.