Brexit: EU implementation agreement ‘betrays’ UK fishermen

Fishing boats in Peterhead harbour.


Some Conservative MPs have expressed disappointment at the outlined fishing deal

The UK’s agreement to keep EU fishing policies during the Brexit transition period has been described as a “betrayal” to coastal communities.

Scottish Conservative MP John Lamont made the comment after Brexit negotiators hailed a “decisive step”.

If the agreement is implemented, the EU will “consult” the UK on quotas and access to its waters until 2021.

The Daily Telegraph says Tory critics of the deal are planning to protest on a boat on the Thames by Parliament.

The paper says that prominent Eurosceptic MP Jacob Rees-Mogg is expected to board a boat and throw fish into the river in protest at the alleged “sell-out”.

Mr Rees-Mogg, the chairman of the European Research Group, said on the BBC’s Newsnight programme that the whole agreement would be “deeply unsatisfactory” unless the government delivered a “proper Brexit”.

He added: “I make no bones about it, I think this transition agreement is a very unsatisfactory agreement – not just on fish.

“This agreement gives away almost everything and it is very hard to see what the government has got in return.”

Mr Lamont said: “Brexit is a huge opportunity for our fishing communities including those in my constituency. After the implementation period is over, full control over our waters must come back to the United Kingdom from Brussels.

“Anything less will be a betrayal of our fishing communities who voted for Brexit in large numbers.”

A group of conservative MPs from coastal constituencies are expected to meet the prime minister later to discuss the policy.

Coastal Tories stand by the fishermen

By Jonathan Blake, political correspondent

After what was described as a frank exchange of views at a meeting of Conservative MPs and the Environment Secretary Michael Gove on Monday night, those representing parts of the UK reliant on fishing will have the chance to put their case to the prime minister later.

Their anger at the fishing element of the transitional period was clear.

One MP in Cornwall said they would expect “very quick, very clear” proposals on fishing policy after the Brexit transition period was over.

Downing Street said it had “secured specific safeguards on behalf of British fishermen”.

The issue angered Scotland’s fishing industry on Monday, with the country’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon claiming the concession made to the EU in the transitional period – which the UK prefers to call the “implementation period” – was “shaping up to be a massive sell-out of the Scottish fishing industry by the Tories”.

Bertie Armstrong, head of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said his members were “unhappy with the EU doing exactly as we predicted, which is to ask for the bargain of a lifetime to continue as long as physically possible”.

Compared with Iceland, which is allowed 90% of fish caught in its waters, the UK keeps 40% under the Common Fisheries Policy, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

But Niel Wichmann, head of the Danish Fisherman’s Association, said the transition period “is a sensible agreement which gives us time – a couple of years – to work out how we keep our fishing stocks sustainable, how we keep our fisheries sustainable after Brexit”.

On Monday EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said the legal text of the agreement for the 21 months after Brexit on 29 March 2019 – which includes the UK remaining part of the Common Fisheries Policy – marked a “decisive step” but added that it was “not the end of the road”.

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Media captionDavid Davis: Transition is about beginning life outside EU

The key aspects of the agreement announced in Brussels are:

  • The transitional period will last from Brexit day on 29 March 2019 to 31 December 2020
  • EU citizens arriving in the UK between these two dates will enjoy the same rights and guarantees as those who arrive before Brexit. The same will apply to UK expats on the continent
  • The UK will be able to negotiate, sign and ratify its own trade deals during the transition period although they can only come into force from 1 January 2021
  • The UK will still be party to existing EU trade deals with other countries
  • The UK’s share of fishing catch will be guaranteed during transition but UK will effectively remain part of the Common Fisheries Policy, yet without a direct say in its rules, until the end of 2020

Other aspects of the post-Brexit relationship yet to be agreed include what happens to the Northern Ireland border in the longer term.

Both sides agree that they do not want a hard border on the island of Ireland. However agreement on how this will be achieved has yet to be reached – and the EU has insisted that there must be a “backstop” option if no agreement is reached.

This “backstop” option would mean Northern Ireland would effectively stay in parts of the single market and the customs union. The UK has agreed to its inclusion although Theresa May has said that she would never put her name to a deal that divided Northern Ireland and Britain.