Blog: Government’s failure to strike Norway fishing deal ‘absolutely disastrous’ – The Independent

The government’s failure to strike a post-Brexit fishing deal with Norway is “absolutely disastrous” for fishing crews, the boss of the UK’s last distant waters fishing business has said.

The collapse of fishing talks with Norway means British vessels have no rights to fish in Norwegian sub-Arctic waters in 2021.

Hundreds of crew members face being left without work and fish and chip shops will be selling Arctic cod imported from Norway rather than landed in Britain, UK Fisheries said.

One trawler, Kirkella, which catches 10 per cent of fish sold in chip shops, will be tied up in Hull for a year.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the UK and Norwegian positions were too far apart to reach an agreement this year.

But Jane Sandell, the chief executive of UK Fisheries, said no deal was “absolutely disastrous” and the environment secretary owed the industry an explanation as jobs have been “sacrificed”.

“This is a very black day for Britain,” she said.

George Eustice 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.”

The board of UK Fisheries will now meet to decide what presence it can have in Hull with no viable fishing opportunities in its traditional grounds.

The National Federation of Fisherman’s Organisations called for “full scrutiny and analysis” of the failed negotiations.

“The loss of very significant fishing opportunities will carry direct consequences for the vessels and fishing businesses concerned but also a range of indirect consequences, including fleet displacement,” the leading fishing industry body said in a statement.

The National Federation of Fish Friers (NFFF) said the failure to reach a deal with Norway would “severely damage British fishermen and their communities” and was “devastating news for all”.

“We rely on having some domestic catch to keep the market stable and any lack of competition is going to have an impact on prices,” Andrew Crook, the president of the NFFF, said.

“We are already seeing large increases on almost all of our supplies and we fear this will continue.

“There are too many factors changing at the same time and we are asking the government to engage with our sector as we are rapidly heading towards increases on VAT which will put many jobs at risk when we are facing so many hurdles.”

Brexit means the UK is no longer part of the European Common Fisheries Policy and instead negotiates with Norway directly over fishing rights each year.

The talks for 2021 had been underway since January but collapsed on Thursday.

A Defra spokesperson said: “We have always been clear that we will only strike agreements if they are balanced and in the interests of the 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.”

Negotiations for an agreement for 2022 are expected to begin in the autumn.

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