THE FISHING industry in Shetland has voiced its opposition to suggestions by opposition politicians that the Brexit transition period should be extended by another two years.
Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA) said the industry had been opposed to a transition period from day one and was ready for the UK to become an independent coastal state tomorrow if required.
In the light of the Covid-19 crisis and the deep recession forecast for 2020, Liberal Democrats and the SNP have been lobbying for an additional delay before the UK leaves the EU.
Welcoming Labour’s support for the proposal, Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael said: “Unless the government does the right thing and extends the transition period we risk crashing out without a trade deal, delivering a double whammy just as we try to recover from the current crisis.
“The NHS, food supply chains and the economy are all already under huge amounts of pressure. People are rightly worried about their loved ones and about their jobs.
“We need to be able to put Brexit issues to one side for the moment, in order to focus on protecting the most vulnerable.”
But Simon Collins, the SFA’s executive officer, said that as far as he could see there was “not much appetite within the government to extend”, and fishing was a special case anyway.
“The institutional arrangements have been in place for 40 years. The only thing that needs to be arranged is to have an extra seat and a different flag at the negotiating table, but the arrangements of how it all works are understood,” Collins said.
“If we were required to operate as an independent coastal state as of tomorrow, we could; so for us there is no reason to delay.
“Whatever decisions are being made for other parts of the economy, for which we can’t speak, as far as fishing is concerned our stance is absolutely clear: we have every intention to push the government to deliver, at least for fishing, that we are an independent coastal state by the end of the year.
“There is no technical reason why we cant’ be. We didn’t want a transition period and we certainly don’t want an extension.”
Collins added that once the UK is an independent coastal state and fishing matters be devolved to Scotland, the country would finally be in a position to implement measures against the hugely controversial and environmentally damaging gillnet fishing undertaken by a fleet of Spanish owned vessels in Shetland and Scottish waters.
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