Alastair Carmichael argued that six months on from the UK’s exit from the EU‘s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) the country’s ailing industry has yet to be given the big boost that was expected. He tore apart Boris Johnson’s fishing deal with Brussels, saying it fell short of the “sea of opportunities” the Prime Minister had pledged to trawlermen.
Mr Carmichael said fishermen, processors and exporters up and down the country are “suffering from structural problems created by the new barriers put up between them and their biggest markets” thanks to Mr Johnson’s deal.
He claimed figures in the industry are “crying out for help, for change, and for meaningful action from the Government responsible” but are being met with “scant interest” from ministers.
Writing in The Scotsman, he said: “The year did not start in an auspicious manner, with seafood exporters rocked by new trade barriers erected with just days’ notice, leading to enormous losses in trade in the early weeks of January and the frankly humiliating situation of fishermen taking their catch all the way to Denmark to avoid the chaos our Government created.
“When I called an urgent debate on the growing disaster at the time, ministers dismissed them as ‘teething problems’.
“What we have seen since has put the lie to that claim.”
Mr Carmichael also took aim at the Prime Minister’s post-Brexit immigration system, which he claimed was having a knock-on effect on the fishing sector.
He said he had received letters from skippers on the Scottish isles who simply cannot acquire enough staff to man their boats.
Many fishermen relied on foreign labour to keep their vessels running before Brexit.
But the UK’s new immigration rules mean employers in multiple sectors are struggling to fill roles.
Last month a Guardian columnist warned that Hull’s fishing industry is on the brink of becoming extinct.
Claire Armistead said Brexit was supposed to reinvigorate the industry but instead could be the final straw for the port city’s maritime trade.
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She said: “For the fishing community of Humberside, on the austerity-battered north-east coast of England, it is as if a slow-motion car crash has suddenly been fast-forwarded.”
She pointed to the Kirkella, a British super trawler based in Hull which has been caught up in post-Brexit fishing arrangements.
The vessel which previously caught 10 percent of cod and haddock sold in UK chip shops is grounded due to failed post-Brexit negotiations with Norway.
Ms Armistead said such woes blighting the industry are “an embarrassment for Brexiteers, who wielded fishing as a key weapon in the campaign to quit the EU”.
British fishermen were not the only ones up in arms over the trade deal announced by Mr Johnson on Christmas Eve last year.
Trawlermen in France and Denmark were also heavily critical of the fishing deal.
Esben Sverdrup-Jensen, chief executive of the Danish Pelagic Producers Organisation, called the deal’s transfer of quotas a “massive blow” to the Danish fleet.
He said: “No doubt there will be fishermen who will go out of business here, and lose their vessels.”
Under the Brussels-London agreement, 25 percent of the overall existing quota will be transferred to the UK over a five-and-a-half-year period.
The completion of this process will be at the end of June in 2026.