UK fishermen ‘skint’ and ‘on bones of their backsides’ as fury erupts

Brexit: Fishing industry was ‘lied’ to claims Luke Pollard

UK fishermen are “skint” and are now “on the bones of their backsides” with Rishi Sunak and his Conservative Party Government warned they must act now. In the lead up to the signing of the post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union in December 2020, then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised the UK would finally “take back control” of its own waters. But the agreement with Brussels left UK fishermen furious as it stated there would be five-year transition period that would see EU boats continue to gain some access to UK waters until 2026.

When the deal was signed, Mr Johnson himself admitted some concessions had been made with the EU, but insisted for the first time since 1973, the UK would have “full control” of its waters.

June Mummery, the former MEP for East of England and founder of Renaissance of the East Anglian Fisheries, raged in an exclusive interview with “The UK industry is practically gone and is on its last legs. We’ve completely lost it.”

“The great British public have the right to know that 84 percent of the UK fishing industry use boats smaller than 10 metres. Those fishermen are all going single-handed as they now can’t afford a crew.

“Elsewhere, 54 percent of the UK quota is held on flagship vessels – registered in the UK but are foreign-owned. That quota would have come back if we had properly left the EU.

“You also have to remember 92 percent of the cod in the English Channel is owned by the French, and that is ridiculous. The EU takes 80 percent of the fish in British waters.

Ms Mummery added: “Remainers always come back at me and say ‘Yeah but if we had taken back control, where would we have sold all of this fish?’

“Back in the day, Iceland did exactly the same thing – they took back control of their lucrative waters, kicked us out, and wouldn’t let us fish in their waters anymore.

“Within a fortnight, we were buying fish from them because there were thousands of jobs on the Humber that needed the raw material. Boris Johnson said we would “take back control of our waters”. That was a bloody lie.”

Ms Mummery said UK fishermen and coastal communities around the country had been “betrayed and stabbed in the back”, adding some 1,700 EU vessels remain in their waters.

She claimed UK fishermen are being bullied out of their own waters by EU boats, and challenged the UK Government to act now to rapidly reverse the sector’s fortunes.

The former MEP continued: “UK fishermen have been betrayed and stabbed in the back. Fishermen feel stabbed in the back but coastal communities also feel stabbed in the back because they have waited over 40 years to take back that fish as resource.

“At the eleventh hour, Boris has given the EU our fishing waters. He cannot deny that or get out of that.

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“Foreign boats are only supposed to come up to the 12 mile exclusion zone of British coasts but they are coming all the way up to the six mile exclusion zones You still have 1,700 EU vessels in our waters and eight of those are super trawlers.

“EU boats are bullying UK fishermen out of their own waters. All of them are unmonitored and if we don’t act now, all of these huge boats will continue to plunder our waters.”

When asked what her message to the Government would be, Ms Mummery replied: “UK fishermen are skint and on the bones of their backsides.

“You have fishing towns like Grimsby, Hull, Lowestoft, Great Yarmouth and Hartlepool, but Boris has literally stolen all of their opportunities and aspirations.

“The UK Government has betrayed coastal towns, villages and communities. You stabbed fishermen in the back and what the hell are you going to do about it?

“The industry is just about finished. There are mechanisms they can put in place, but why aren’t they doing that?”

Shortly after the trade deal with the EU was signed at the end of 2020, then-Prime Minister Mr Johnson admitted concessions were made to Brussels but insisted for the first time since 1973, the UK would have “full control” of its waters.

Asked which the UK and EU had conceded in the deal, he said: “It would be fair to say that we wanted to make sure for instance that we got complete control of our fisheries from the get go and that’s just to say we had annual negotiations on fisheries within the shortest possible delay.

“The EU began with I think wanting a transition period of 14 years, we wanted three years, we’ve ended up at five years.

“That was a reasonable transition period and I can assure great fish fanatics in this country that we will as a result of this deal be able to catch and eat quite prodigious quantities of extra fish.

“For the first time since 1973 we will be an independent coastal state with full control of our waters with the UK’s share of fish in our waters rising substantially from roughly half today to closer to two thirds in five-and-a-half years’ time.

“After that, there is no theoretical limits beyond those placed by science or conservation on the quantity of our own fish that we can fish in our waters.”

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