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Brexit / Fishermen on high alert as EU trade talks loom

Local whitefish boat Tranquility fishing off Shetland. Photo: Ivan ReidLocal whitefish boat Tranquility fishing off Shetland. Photo: Ivan Reid

ISLES MP Alistair Carmichael has warned that the fishing industry could be used as a “bargaining chip” in the forthcoming trade negotiations with the European Union, while Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Maree Todd added that the Tories were prepared to sell out Scotland’s fishing communities again.

The UK is leaving the EU on Friday night after which both sides will get ready to talk about its future relationship with the aim to conclude these negotiations by the end of the year.

Documents from the European Commission show that the EU’s negotiation position clearly aims for continuing with the status quo of reciprocal access to fishing waters and resources.

Meanwhile the Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is quoted as saying that access to UK waters must continue for EU fishing boats if the UK wants a trade deal on banking.

Carmichael, who has always campaigned against Brexit, is calling on the UK government to demonstrate “some political will” and stick with the many promises made to fishermen since before the Brexit referendum in 2016.

“Documents from the European Commission make it plain that they see the status quo as the goal for fisheries negotiations,” the Lib Dem MP said.

“The government must prove it has some political will to fulfil the many promises made about an independent fisheries policy during and after the election. Their words say one thing. Actions speak louder.

“The move of fisheries from the binding Withdrawal Agreement into the non-binding Political Declaration already suggests that the Government may not be all that invested in “taking back control” in this area.

Shetland Fishermen’s Association chief officer Simon Collins said: “The next step for the fishing industry is to make sure that the UK government sticks to its promises and does not trade away our new legal control over our fishing grounds as part of a bigger package with the EU.

“That would be the sell-out that we have argued against since the EU referendum three and a half years ago.”

Todd added: “Despite control over our waters being a key message from the Leave camp, and Boris Johnson vowing that Scotland’s fishing waters will not be used as a bargaining chip in Brexit talks, it’s come to light that the PM has gone back on his word – clearly viewing Scotland’s fisheries as expendable.

“As a Highlands & Islands MSP, I’m deeply worried about what this means for our coastal communities who are being left in the dark over Brexit talks.

“Rather than fulfilling their promise of the UK becoming an independent coastal state, the Tories are instead serving the fishing industry up as bait in EU negotiations.”