Brexit: British fish 'happier' due to deal says Jacob Rees-Mogg
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Jeremy Percy also took a swipe at Fisheries Minister Victoria Prentis, suggesting promises made by her in respect to EU access to the UK’s 6-12 mile limit had not been kept. The Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) signed by Boris Johnson last year has been widely criticised by members of the fishing industry who believe the agreement singularly fails to deliver on the Prime Minister’s pledge to take back control of UK fish stocks.
The agreement means EU vessels retain access for the next five-and-a-half years, with former Brexit MEP June Mummery recently describing the current arrangements as a “disaster”.
Mr Percy, the chairman of the New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association (NUFTA), which represents boats under ten metres in length, made his feelings plain in an Express.co.uk comment piece published yesterday.
In it, he wrote: “Fishing was the undoubted poster boy for Brexit, underpinned by expansive promises from senior Government officials of taking back control, being an independent coastal state and benefitting from a windfall of hundreds of thousands of tons more fish.”
However, the reality was “almost the complete reverse”, Mr Percy suggested.
He explained: “The UK’s fishing industry has been thrown under the bus without a second thought, with Jacob Rees-Mogg encapsulating the Government’s apparent post EU Exit lack of care or concern by smugly suggesting that we had got our fish back and that ‘they’re now British fish and they’re better and happier fish for it’.
“Suitably translated, many within the industry read this as an extension of Johnson’s earlier comment to ‘f**k business’ to now include fishermen.”
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History was now “repeating itself”, Mr Percy said.
He added: “Edward Heath infamously gave away most of the UK’s fishing rights to Europe when we joined the EEC.
“In the recent negotiations Johnson similarly appears to have given away almost everything, vitally including the UK’s exclusive access to our 6-12 mile limit, a firm promise made repeatedly by Ministers, including the fisheries minister Victoria Prentis.
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“Ms Prentis (who infamously admitted to having not read the Withdrawal Agreement as she was too busy organising her local Nativity Trail) promised that ‘..any access negotiated with the EU will cover only the UK’s exclusive economic zone, and not the 0 to 12 mile zone. That remains the case’.”
However, Mr Percy said the week before the Agreement was signed, no fewer than 17 large Belgian beam trawlers had been working the six-mile line between Hastings and Brighton.
He added: “It is little wonder then that our own inshore fishermen’s main complaint these days is that there are few fish making it through this European curtain of large scale fishing effort and to within reach of these smaller scale fishermen.
“At the same time, more than three quarters of the UK fleet are vessels of less than 10 metres in length.
“And 80 percent of this sector uses passive gear such as pots, nets or lines rather than trawls.
“Having the continued presence of massive EU trawlers still able to fish up to our six mile limit effectively pins our smaller boats into the coastal strip in order to avoid having their fishing gear towed away should they venture out to 6.1 miles.”
Speaking to Express.co.uk last month, a Defra spokesman said: “Now that we have left the Common Fisheries Policy, all vessels, regardless of nationality, may only fish in UK waters if they have a valid licence and abide by UK rules.
“During the adjustment period there is reciprocal access to certain parts of the UK’s and EU’s 6-12 mile fishing zones for UK and EU vessels that can prove previous access.”
Express.co.uk has contacted Mr Rees-Mogg and Ms Prentis offering them a chance to respond to Mr Percy’s remarks.
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