Fishing industry bosses have cried “betrayal” ahead of a mammoth House of Commons vote on the prime minister’s Christmas Eve Brexit deal.
Downing Street’s chief Brexit negotiator, Lord Frost, said yesterday the agreement would allow “national renewal” and permit the UK to “set its own laws again”.
But as he did so, British fisherman increasingly vented their anger, saying promises made by Leavers that they would regain control of all UK fishing waters by voting for Brexit had been broken.
In a statement released overnight, the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations said: “Throughout the fishing industry there is a profound sense of disillusionment, betrayal, and fury that after all the rhetoric, promises and assurances, the Government caved-in on fish.
“This was a decision taken at the highest political levels and it is important that responsibility is taken for the choices made. This is no time for spin.
“It is unlikely that obstacles in the road will now derail the ratification process, but the fishing industry will want it clearly understood that the best opportunity in a generation for a different and better future has been squandered.”
Fishing may account for a very small part of the UK economy overall, but it has been one of the most politically sensitive issues and was used by the Leave campaign in 2016 as one key area where Brexit would allow the government to “take back control”.
To deliver this promise, UK negotiators had originally argued for EU quotas to be slashed by around 80%.
However, Boris Johnson dropped his demands at the last minute and agreed quotas would reduce by 25% for EU boats over a five-and-a-half year period, although EU boats will enjoy full access to UK waters during that time.
After this period, the two sides will negotiate over future fishing rights, with the deal allowing for either to impose tariffs on the other’s exports off fish in the event of serious disagreements.
The agreement has led to concerns that the fishing industry will be forever tied to EU-UK trade negotiations, something that was previously deemed a “red line” of Mr Johnson’s.
They have conned and deceived people.”
SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford MP said the deal was a “massive sell-out”.
He said: “No-one in Scotland can ever again trust a word the Tories say.
“They have conned and deceived people. Their own words, when they talked about ‘betrayal’ and leaving the common fisheries policy ‘in name only’, have come back to haunt them.
“They said that access and quota shares with the EU must be negotiated on an annual basis without any pre-existing arrangement being in force.
“But in a spectacular broken promise, Boris Johnson’s UK Government have signed a deal that guarantees long-term access for EU boats.
“They said that “tying fishing to a trade deal” was a red line that must not be crossed. But that is precisely what they have done.
“They have agreed to the worst of all worlds – a hard Brexit deal including a fisheries deal that in their own words means we have left the common fisheries policy in name only.”
Letter here 👇 pic.twitter.com/FMoCBJV1GB
— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) November 14, 2018
Responding to the SNP’s comments, a UK Government source said: “This is breathtaking hypocrisy from the SNP, who want to take the Scottish fishing industry right back into the CFP.
“We have sealed a deal that takes us out of the hated CFP, restores our status as an independent coastal state and ensures big increases in our share of the catch in our own waters.
“What’s more, we will invest £100 million in our fishing industry to help it take advantage of these new opportunities.
“The question for the SNP is – will they back this great deal for Scotland and the whole UK?”
MPs will be invited to debate and vote upon Mr Johnson’s deal on Wednesday.