Brexit: Fishermen’s Federation CEO says UK has had ‘bad deal’
Speaking to LBC radio, Elspeth MacDonald urged Boris Johnson and his Brexit negotiating team to stick to their guns on fisheries. She explained how a Norway-style deal with the Brussels bloc would be the perfect solution to British fishermen across the UK, not just in Scotland. She said: “Currently, under the Common Fisheries Policy the UK only catches between 30 and 40 percent of all the fish that are caught in our waters. And if we compare that to a country like Norway, which is an independent coastal state and has its own separate arrangements with the EU, they catch over 85 percent of the fish in their waters.
“So that’s the sort of shifts that we would like to see under the new arrangement.”
She added the “bad” deal agreed between the UK and the EC many years ago was to blame for the current loss incurred by British fishermen.
“We’ve been suffering ever since,” she said.
Ms MacDonald dismissed claims the UK should compromise on fishing quotas in order to secure reciprocate trade of fishing catches with the EU as she blasted: “There is a really good marketplace for our product in Europe, regardless of who catches it.
“It’s also important to recognise there’s a balance in trade of seafood between the UK and the EU.
“We export about a billion worth to them over a year, and they export about a billion worth to us. So the trade in seafood is balanced, but the trade in fishing opportunities really is not.
“The EU fishes six times more in our waters than we fish in theirs!”
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Environment Secretary George Eustice warned a breakthrough is needed in the “next few days” if talks with the EU on a post-Brexit trade deal are to succeed.
Negotiations were resuming in Brussels on Sunday after Boris Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen ordered a push to try to overcome the remaining differences.
The two leaders – who spoke for over an hour on Saturday in an attempt to break the stalemate – are due to hold a further phone call on Monday evening to assess whether an agreement is possible.
Mr Eustice, however, warned the talks were in a “very difficult position” after what he said had been a series of “setbacks”.
He accused the EU of introducing “a whole load of additional demands” late in the day and insisting on “ludicrous” conditions on future fishing rights.
“It is in a very difficult position – there is no point denying that,” he told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme.
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“We will continue to work on these negotiations until there is no point doing so any further but there is no point denying that what happened late last week was a setback.”
Speaking later on BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show he added: “I think we probably are now in the final few days in terms of deciding whether there can be an agreement.
“Of course if the ambience warms up again and actually great progress is made and it is just about sorting out the detail, then you can always find more time, you can always extend.
“But I think unless we can resolve these quite fundamental divergences at the moment then we are going to have to take a position in the next few days.”
With time rapidly running out before the Brexit transition period concludes at the end of the month, the chief negotiators Lord Frost and Michel Barnier are meeting in a last-ditch attempt to resolve the remaining issues.
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In a joint statement following their call, Mr Johnson and Ms von der Leyen acknowledged “significant differences” remained on fishing rights, competition rules and the mechanisms for resolving disputes.
“Both sides underlined that no agreement is feasible if these issues are not resolved,” they said.
“Whilst recognising the seriousness of these differences, we agreed that a further effort should be undertaken by our negotiating teams to assess whether they can be resolved.”
Mr Eustice said that if there was to be an agreement the EU needed to accept that they were dealing with the UK as “sovereign equals”.
On the vexed issue of fisheries, he said the UK was prepared to offer a multi-annual deal of up to three years but the EU was insisting on access to British waters for its fishers “in perpetuity”.
“We would be the only country in the entire world that could agree that so such a suggestion really is quite ludicrous and not consistent with international law,” he said.
Mr Eustice also confirmed that Government is going ahead with plans to bring back to the Commons legislation enabling it to override elements of Mr Johnson’s “divorce” settlement with Brussels in breach of international law.
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