Hook, line and sinker. Scottish Fishermen caught out by Brexit | Autonomy Scotland

Hook, line and sinker. Scottish Fishermen caught out by Brexit

Fisher of Men

Fisher of Men

During the EU referendum campaign Nigel Farage was the figurehead of an armada of pro Brexit fishermen.

It was strange to see the UKIP leader taking a sudden interest in fishing as:

Over three crucial years, during which key decisions were made on the reform of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), Nigel Farage was a member of the European Parliament Fisheries Committee. He turned up to just one out of 42 meetings.

Still, many Scottish fishermen believed that by getting out of the EU they could turn the clock back to the halcyon days before the evil Common Fisheries Policy. An imagined time when small British ships could plunder an endless marine larder with no environmental consequences.

The truth is that Scottish Fish Stocks were in decline due to over-fishing long before the EU existed.  Those stocks were decimated further by Scottish fishermen, skippering bigger and better trawlers equipped with modern technology, funded by EU grants.

Apparently, it is beginning to dawn on some fishermen that Brexit may not be all they imagined it to be.

Halcyon days

Halcyon days

Like most pro Brexit arguments the situation is much more complicated than the Brexiters proposed, fishing rights:

extend back to the Middle Ages and banning foreign vessels from UK waters may well be incompatible with international law. Such negotiations may harm trading relationships with Europe. At present the UK exports around 80% of its wild-caught seafood, with four of the top five destinations being European countries.

Post Brexit negotiations will not be straightforward, as a spokesperson for the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations confirmed days after the vote.

Unfortunately, perhaps, the UK’s geopolitical position means that it is not politically or legally possible just to ringfence most of our fish resources, in the way that, for example, Iceland can. The reality is that most of our stocks are shared with other countries to some degree or other. We can certainly seek to renegotiate quota shares, as well as access arrangements, but it is realistic to expect that there will be a price. Who will pay that price is a critical question.

Some have also pointed out that the Common Fisheries Policy, though not perfect, had improved in recent years. That due to EU quotas, the decimated fish stocks are now replenishing.

Others suggest that the UK Government could have helped the traditional industry by changing the distribution of fishing rights in order to favour smaller vessels. Currently, 23 percent of the English quota is caught by one Dutch owned UK registered trawler, and this is a problem not caused by the EU.

Those arguments don’t matter much anymore. What is prescient is that the difficulty faced by Scottish fishermen is the same post Brexit as it has been for decades.

When Ted Heath signed up to the Common Fisheries Policy, he did so safe in the knowledge that 4000 Scottish fishermen, half the fleet at the time, would lose their jobs. He did this because the Scottish fishing industry isn’t that important to the UK economy as a whole. The fishermen were pawns in a much bigger game.

Problem for them is, if they were pawns back then they are not even flecks of dust on the chess board now.

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The UK is just about to embark on a gargantuan, complex series of negotiations that will affect all sectors of the economy. The chance of them risking the overall negotiations in order to get a good deal for fishermen is next to zero.

What is certain is that when we leave the EU the money that the UK fishing industry receives from Europe will dry up. The UK government has been ominously quiet about the long term plans for replacing that stream of cash. It is an ominous silence that drowns out most of the referendum promises made by the likes of Farage.

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Keith Houstonsilver19Derick TullochautonomyscotlandBarry Walpole Recent comment authors

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[…] It’s not just the farmers /rural community that are in for a shock over what will happen once Brexit actually occurs. The fishermen are going to be well and truly screwed over too. Autonomy Scotland have done an excellent post on their situation here. […]

Peg
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Peg

Yet another case of people wanting to believe it could be better. The leave campaign fed on these fishermen’s hardship and made them believe it could be better. We are now seeing, as with almost every other industry, how much worse it’s going to be. No way will the govt prop up fishermen nor farmers, in return for environmental protections like the eu does. In fact if we trade WTO rules they wont be allowed to. Oh God I really worry that we will lose most industry when we leave.

James Buchan
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James Buchan

Perhaps the author could give his experience if the fishing industry. From what I can see it amounts to reading the Guardian. This article is typical of some one who neither knows or understands the current Scottish fishing industry. The purpose of writing it is purely political and for the supporters of Independence self gratification.
I believe the Scottish fishing industry will come out of Brexit negotiations in a stronger position. Frankly myself and many others in fishing communities cannot understand Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP’s aversion to enhancing Scottish sovereignty over Scottish waters.

autonomyscotland
Admin

The key question is, will the UK government negotiate you a better deal than the one you currently have. You don’t need to have a knowledge of the fishing industry to have an opinion on that. You believe they will and we believe they won’t. That is fair enough. We can come back in a couple of years to see who was right. In terms of the links in the article, there are actually quite a few links and to a wide variety of sources. You are in fact yourself quoted in the Irish Times article this one links to.… Read more »

Derick Tulloch
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Derick Tulloch

Ah, James Buchan, Scottish Conservative candidate at the 2010 General Election.

silver19
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silver19

Yep and those toxic tories will be promising more powers for Scotland with Brexit on top of the world most devolved parliament in the world* already.

* = Complete and utter lie.

Barry Walpole
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Barry Walpole

It’s a real shame that the people writing these articles don’t understand that the fishing community didn’t vote leave because of Nigel farage’s campaign . We voted because over the last 10 years there has been a serious decline in our industry which isn’t due to poor fish stocks but due to unjustified rules and regulations which have made this industry a tough one to be in . We are not asking for much of you say the fishing industry is not important to uk government then why are we being victimised quite so much . Me and my father… Read more »

autonomyscotland
Admin

I understand that you never voted because of Farage and that you voted as you thought that leaving the EU would be better for the fishing industry. You might be right although I don’t think the UK gov will do you any favours. Will wait and see and will be the first to admit I was wrong if things do work out for you. There are a lot of variables and a lot of things can happen. The EFTA option is quite interesting for the fishing industry. We would stay in the single market and still get control over fishing/agriculture.… Read more »

Keith Houston
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Keith Houston

Scottish Fishing has been used as a bargaining chip previously and possibly weren’t treated very fairly. The U.K. appear to be about to use all of Scotland to gain the best exit deal for those that wanted to leave, no matter how disastrous this is for Scots that voted to remain. This situation wouldn’t be possible had the U.K. be established on the lines of the EU, The Germans, French or nobody else can dictate what happens to other members with a simple majority of votes.

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