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A FISHING industry chief has blasted a Tory grandee who criticised organisations who were not happy with the UK’s Brexit deal.
Barrie Deas, who heads the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) has also hit out at Boris Johnson, claiming he misled the industry by suggesting the deal made with the EU would be a windfall for fishermen.
Mr Deas was speaking following comments from Scottish Tory grandee and former MEP Struan Stevenson, who suggested in an article last month that the outrage from fishermen and the NFFO in particular was “ill-conceived given that more than half of England and Wales’ current fish quotas are foreign owned.”
Mr Stevenson, who was the vice chairman of the EU’s Committee on Fisheries also said: “If the NFFO believed that Brexit would enable us to kick out all the foreign vessels and seize control of their quotas, they were harbouring a serious misapprehension.”
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Mr Deas described Mr Stevenson’s comments as “a bit sneaky” and said: “He was having a go at the fishing industry by attacking the NFFO, my organisation, and attacking the Scots Federation obliquely because there are things that divide us but on our approach to the negotiations for the trade agreement we were absolutely united and we stood on a common platform.”
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He added that Mr Stevenson was an “apologist for the EU’s common fisheries policy” but “then wanted to give Boris Johnson credit for getting us out of it”.
On the Brexit fishing deal itself, Mr Deas said the biggest bone of contention for the industry was ” the government’s initial attempt to portray the agreement as a success when it plainly wasn’t.”
He said there was an opportunity for the UK Government to rectify some of the shortcomings of the Brexit agreement in the current negotiations on annual quotas and shares.
He explained: ” There is another big battle ahead on this.
“From the plenary sessions of the EU/UK, annual negotiations which we’re allowed to look into, it is quite clear that the EU game is to hold the UK as close as possible to the common fisheries policy and deny us the ability to use regulatory autonomy.
“In the in the talks it’s all about cooperation, working together, playing nicely mutual respect, all those kind of nice sounding words, but that is really a mask for saying ‘You must continue to follow the common fisheries policy rules that are in place. Not only that but when we change our rules you must follow them as well.’
“If accepted it would completely undermine regulatory autonomy, which is , from the fishing industry perspective, the whole point of leaving the EU.”
The NFFO leader also said that the fishing sector could face further woes in the event of Scottish independence, particularly if the country was successful in rejoining the EU as the SNP has suggested it would seek.
He said it would create further complications for exporters, who would have to travel through England to export to the EU and therefore would need two sets of paperwork rather than just one.
Fish exporters have already seen thousands of tonnes of produce wasted as a result of wrong paperwork at the border, or a complete ban on exporting certain types of shellfish now the UK has left the EU.
He said: “The Scottish fishing industry must have anxieties about the sequence [of events]starting with a big majority for the SNP in May.”
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He said that if Scotland ended up rejoining the EU, “the Scottish industry would find itself back in the common fisheries policy. I think that must be an anxiety, having broken free as part of the UK, albeit in a diluted and mutilated form.”
The UK Government defended its fishing deal and said that as the UK was no longer in the Common Fisheries Policy the “entire Scottish fisheries industry… and coastal communities, can reap the rewards of the bounty in the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone.”