Brexit fishing farce

Johnson’s post-Brexit trade deal leads to unrest amongst the British fishing community

Photo on The London Economic.

— 3 minute read — By Derry Salter

It’s clear that the UK’s leaders have failed to deliver their Brexit promises. Prior to the EU trade deal, many fishermen were led to believe they would regain control over the industry – this is not the case.

Prime Minister Johnson’s trade deal allows European boats to have substantial access to British waters for the next five years. The deal that allows French, Dutch and Belgian boats to fish in British waters falls short of Johnson’s previous promise to take back control. The fishing community has been left feeling betrayed. In the first few weeks of the Brexit transition period, sales to important European markets stalled and prices plummeted. Fishermen are worried over whether these tumultuous times will become their indefinite future. Furthermore, the Brexit transition has seen exports and deliveries taking 24 hours longer because of the new trade deal. This is adding unnecessary time to the fishing trade, which is a major problem for smaller exporters.

The UK government argue that the post-Brexit deal secured extra fishing rights for the country, worth 25% of the EU’s previous catch in Britain’s waters. Johnson admits that there are some problems with the fishing industry and such problems were ‘inevitable.’ However, the Prime Minister continues to argue that his Brexit deal will be very beneficial to this sector in the medium-to-long term. Recently, Johnson visited Scotland, home to Europe’s biggest fish market, in order to discuss the changes. He admits he is willing to meet with members of the fishing industry to ‘explain why I think we’ve done the right thing with Brexit’. Johnson supported this claim by promising a £23 million support fund to those impacted by changes in the sector.

It’s not just British fishermen struggling with post-Brexit life, with their EU counterparts struggling to obtain pre-Brexit levels. In the EU, any member state vessel must obtain a license in order to fish in British waters. These licenses can take up to three weeks to be issued and only then can one legally fish.

The EU and UK are set to further negotiate catch quotas for the rest of 2021, as current rules are set to expire by the end of March. Members of the fishing industry across the EU are hesitant to see what changes may be made.

From 2026, Britain will have to opportunity to cut quotas for EU countries as well as excluding boats in certain nautical zones. Furthermore, it is believed that British boats will have an extra £145 million of fishing quota every year before 2026. These factors lay the foundations for a hopeful future for the fishing industry.

Although no more changes are set to be seen until 2026, it’s going to be a long five years for the fishing industry, who remain unsure when this setback will end.