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Brexit / Local fishermen want Brexit as soon as possible

The fishing industry has been united in its support for Brexit. Photo: Shetland News
The fishing industry is looking forward to leave the CFP behind. Photo: Shetland News

FISHERMEN in Shetland continue to lobby for a clear cut Brexit in order to be out of the hated Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) by 31 October despite claims from some sectors of the industry that a no-deal exit from the EU would “break the backbone” of Scottish fishing.

The warnings came from the Scottish Seafood Association and the Communities Inshore Fisheries Alliance who both said the ‘sea of opportunity’, envisaged by so many in the industry, was unlikely to be achieved by every sector due to the lack of government Brexit preparations.

Reacting to the report in the Press & Journal on Monday, isles MP Alistair Carmichael said the intervention showed the mounting concern over the consequences of a no-deal Brexit.

“Three years ago, the catching sector was enthusiastic about potential advantages they saw in Brexit, to challenge imbalances in fisheries policy,” he said.

“That senior figures are speaking out now shows just how badly the government is failing to convince Scottish fishermen that they have any real solution for the chaos of a no-deal Brexit.”

However, executive officer of the Shetland Fishermen’s Association Simon Collins said the message from his members couldn’t be clearer, and that was “give us Brexit as cleanly and as quickly as possible”.

He said he could see how parts of the industry were concerned about the immediate uncertainties but fish processing shouldn’t be confused with the catching sector, and in Shetland fishermen were adamant in that they were looking forward to Brexit.

“From our point of view, what we would like, is to come out of the CFP as soon as possible, and every catching sector in Europe will want the same, and they are envious of us,” he said.

“Most of my members are small fishermen, by numbers not by value of catch, and here small fishermen are geared up to catch fish and getting good prices, and will be able to take advantage of increased fish quotas.

“There are other parts of the country that are not set up to do that, and if they were suddenly handed fish quota they wouldn’t know what to do with it, because there is nowhere to land it – that’s not a problem we have here.”

The recently released Yellowhammer document, summarising the UK government’s “reasonable worst case planning assumptions” for a no-deal Brexit, predicted that up 100 EU fishing vessels could be either entering or already be fishing illegally on 1 November 2019.

“This is likely to cause anger and frustration in the UK catching sector which could lead to both clashes between fishing vessels and an increase in non-compliance in the domestic fleet,” the government said in the document, adding that incidents of disorder and criminality, i.e. violent disputes of blocking of ports, couldn’t be ruled out.