Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal allows European boats access to the seas of the UK coast until June 2026 when negotiations on future fishing rights will resume again. But British skippers claim the deal stacks the cards against them with huge European trawlers still plundering fishing stocks and warned the industry could collapse before the existing deal expires.
Senior UK fishing industry figure and former Brexit Party MEP June Mummery is demanding action from the Government.
She said: “British fishermen are being STARVED by EU mega-trawlers blockading UK waters.
“Our fishing industry will not survive five-and-a-half years.
“Coastal MPs please wake up. What are you going to?
“And the rest of you pull your finger out.”
Ms Mummery’s views echo those of fishermen’s leader Jerry Percy, director of the New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association which looks after the sector’s smaller boats.
Writing on Express.co.uk, Mr Percy said: “Fishing was the undoubted poster boy for Brexit, underpinned by expansive promises from senior Government officials of taking back control, being an independent coastal state and benefitting from a windfall of hundreds of thousands of tons more fish.
“The reality is almost the complete reverse.
“The UK’s fishing industry has been thrown under the bus without a second thought, with Jacob Rees-Mogg encapsulating the Government’s apparent post EU exit lack of care or concern by smugly suggesting that we had got our fish back and that ‘they’re now British fish and they’re better and happier fish for it’.
“Suitably translated, many within the industry read this as an extension of Johnson’s earlier comment to ‘F*** business’ to now include fishermen.”
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Mr Percy said Britain’s inshore fleet was struggling to as few fish were making it through a European curtain of large scale trawlers operating at the edge of the six-mile limit off the UK coast.
He said: “Having the continued presence of massive EU trawlers still able to fish up to our six-mile limit effectively pins our smaller boats into the coastal strip in order to avoid having their fishing gear towed away should they venture out to 6.1 miles.
“So where are we now as the UK fishing industry?”
Mr Percy continued: “We saw EU Exit as a way of rebalancing access to our waters and this was drummed home relentlessly by the Government both before and after the referendum.
“The Sea of Opportunity diatribe much vaunted by the larger scale sector of the fleet, who rely on quota, drowned out many of the voices of smaller-scale fishermen reliant on shellfish exports who had been raising their concerns for many months.
“We are promised world-leading fisheries management and an opportunity to revisit the deal in five and a half year’s time.
“Unless there is a rapid and dramatic approach by Government to the former then the latter date will be meaningless as many of the smaller scale, sustainable fishermen that Brexit promised to protect and prosper will not be around to see it.”
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Earlier, Jersey fishermen called for a ban on French vessels catching scallops and whelks in a heated Brexit row.
Don Thompson, Chairman of the Jersey Fishing Association, claimed isle fishermen “watched helplessly” as French vessels plundered Channel fishing waters.
It comes just hours after the EU has downgraded the island’s waters meaning selected types of shellfish are not allowed to be exported unless they are ready for human consumption.
The new position, announced by the EU Commission last month, prevents scallops, clams, cockles, oysters and mussels known as bivalve molluscs from being exported to the bloc.