Blog: Fishermen accuse Government of Brexit betrayal as Norway deal falls through – Telegraph.co.uk

Fishermen in the North East have accused the Government of abandoning them after it announced on Thursday it had failed to reach a deal with Norway on access to thousands of tonnes of cod.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it had put forward a “fair offer” on access to UK waters and the exchange of fishing quotas but had been unable to reach an agreement for 2021. 

Due to Brexit, the UK now has the ability to sign its own bilateral agreements with Norway, having previously been part of EU-wide deals.

But the drawn out negotiations with Norway have left the Kirkella, the last long distant-water trawler in the region, stuck in port in Hull while waiting for an agreement to be struck. 

The failure to strike a deal means that the boat, responsible for catching about eight per cent of the fish used by Britain’s fish and chip shops, will no longer have access to Arctic cod in Norway’s sub-arctic waters for 2021. 

UK Fisheries, which owns the £52m vessel, warned the move had left hundreds of crew members and other fisheries industry workers needlessly facing unemployment.

The company had recently highlighted that the decision by Norway to award the EU a quota of just 10,000 tonnes meant the UK had the opportunity to secure access to 25,000 tonnes.

Jane Sandell, its chief executive, said: “We are struggling to understand how a government that made such brave promises for fishing in the post-Brexit era can nonchalantly stand by and watch a centuries-old industry fail for what we can only guess are ideological reasons.

“George Eustice [the Environment Secretary] owes our crews and the Humberside region an explanation as to why Defra was unable even to maintain the rights we have had to fish in Norwegian waters for decades, never mind land the boasts of a ‘Brexit Bonus’, which has turned to disaster.”

Whitehall sources argued that the UK had put forward “very reasonable” proposals, which would have ensured that Norway continued to benefit from access to UK waters and exchange of fishing quotas. 

It requested in return that Norway paid for access to UK waters to help correct what ministers believed to be an “imbalance” in previous EU agreements, which saw Norway catch eight times the amount of fish in UK waters as British fishermen did in its waters.

They pointed out that in 2019 the UK fished netted just £31 million in Norwegian waters, while Norway landed £249m worth in UK waters.

The UK has also agreed access to 5,500 tonnes of fish in the waters around Svalbard, the Norwegian archipelago, under a separate deal with the authorities in Norway, as well as shares for cod in these waters with the EU through the Brexit trade deal. 

Meanwhile, other industry figures argued that delivering on the demands of UK Fisheries, which is Dutch and Icelandic owned, would have impacted on other British operators.

Ministers are now preparing to work with the industry to explore options to mitigate the impact.

A Defra spokesperson said: “We have always been clear that we will only strike agreements if they benefit the entire UK fishing industry.

“We put forward a fair offer on access to UK waters and the exchange of fishing quotas, but we have concluded that our positions remain too far apart to reach an agreement this year.

“Norway is a key partner and we will continue to work with them over the course of the year.”

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