• Bassam Radi, Managing Editor

Scottish fishermen turn on Boris Johnson over 'desperately poor' Brexit deal


Scotland’s fishing industry has called out Boris Johnson for the "desperately poor" Brexit agreement, which has left fishermen with mounting losses and fears of their businesses collapsing.


In a letter to the PM, the Scottish Fishermen's Federation (SFF) accused Johnson of misleading the public about the deal and giving the sector “the worst of both worlds.”

"You and your government have spun a line about a 25% uplift in quota for the UK, but you know this is not true, and your deal does not deliver that,” SFF’s chief executive Elspeth Macdonald said.


The scathing letter also detailed the impact of the deal.

It said some fishermen are now “making a 72-hour round trip to land fish in Denmark,” to ensure that their “catch will make a fair price and actually find its way to market while still fresh enough to meet customer demands.”


Many countries use fishing quotas — which determine how many fish of each species each country's fleets are allowed to catch — to manage shared fishing stock.


Macdonald said that Brexit quota gains "can hardly be claimed as a resounding success" and that the agreement "actually leaves the Scottish industry in a worse position on more than half of the key stocks.”


The "desperately poor deal" reached on quotas, under which the EU "have full access to our waters" means that the UK has "no ability to leverage more fish from the EU", she added.

"This, coupled with the chaos experienced since 1 January in getting fish to market, means that many in our industry now fear for their future, rather than look forward to it with optimism and ambition."


Johnson’s stated approach, known as “zonal attachment”, would have secured UK boats up to 90% of the catch in British waters, or important stocks such as herring.


Instead the agreement actually means Britain’s share of the herring catch is just 32.2% and percentage is even lower for other fish, while European Union boats have "unfettered" access to British waters.


The SFF added: "Of major concern, however, is the outcome for many key whitefish species. Your deal actually leaves the Scottish industry in a worse position on more than half of the key stocks and now facing acute problems with North Sea cod and saithe in particular.


“This industry now finds itself in the worst of both worlds. Your deal leaves us with shares that not only fall very far short of zonal attachment, but in many cases fail to 'bridge the gap' compared to historic catches, and with no ability to leverage more fish from the EU, as they have full access to our waters.”


The letter comes after, Scottish fishermen saw orders cancelled by EU customers after delays at the border meant perishable shellfish was failing to arrive at its destination on time.


SNP shadow environment secretary Deidre Brock called the SFF's verdict on Brexit "utterly devastating", especially since fishing was one of the sector’s that the government had specifically highlighted as seeing tangible benefits from leaving the EU.