Intense behind-the-scenes work is continuing both in preparation for the exit negotiations…
NFFO Fights Back against Appeasement
The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, which represents fishermen in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, has launched a blistering attack on UK Fisheries Minister George Eustice, after he made quota concessions to appease nationalist pressure from Scotland during the annual quota negotiations in Brussels.
1500 tonnes of English quota has been taken from the Humberside based Fish Producers Organisation and promised to Scotland without consultation or notice. Also, George Eustice is “consulting” on a revised concordat between the devolved administrations. If implemented, the concordat would mean the transfer of almost the entire English North Sea whitefish fleet into Scottish administration, along with its licences and quota allocations. The NFFO regards as a bogus consultation because the Scottish minister has already announced that the concordat will be implemented as written.
The NFFO statement says, “All this is being done behind closed doors, in secret. English fishing interests are being systematically traded away to appease the clamour from Scotland. It stinks.
“This is all about high politics – the Westminster government is desperate to avoid creating conditions that would favour a second referendum in Scotland. And the nationalist government is determined to create defacto independence where it can, and also to wring concession after concession out of a government preoccupied with delivering Brexit.”
“The UK overall, will lose out as a result of this quota grab because the only European countries licensed to fish in the North East Arctic apart from England, are French, German, Portuguese and Spanish. That cod will be landed, processed and consumed in those countries with value added all along the supply chain. Apart from being opportunist, and unprincipled, this transfer makes no economic sense. The Scots would swap it away for lower value species that they catch.”
“This ministerial decision has been presented as a way of dealing with chokes* that will result from implementation of the landings obligation in 2017 but it has not escaped our notice that no Scottish quota is being tagged for this purpose – only English.”
“Devolved administrations have their individual ministers to speak up for them but the English industry has no such champion. How else can you explain this policy of appeasement? Our minister needs to find the word “no” in his vocabulary. “
The NFFO statement added: “We have as much to fear from an aggressive nationalist agenda in Scotland and our own supine minister, as we have to gain from a successful Brexit.”
The statement concludes: “Scotland’s continual demand is to sit at the table during international negotiations, when this is plainly a reserved responsibility. This shows the level of ambition that there is in Edinburgh but there is no push-back from our own minister. The opposite in fact. We can get no assurances even on this clear-cut matter.”
“Scottish ministers make much of the tonnage of fish landed into Scotland. But there are more UK fishermen’s livelihoods at stake outside Scotland than in, and a significant proportion of those landings are made by English vessels landing into Peterhead. Politically, fishing carries more weight in Scotland. We are being sacrificed as part of a wider game but we will not go down without a fight.”
NFFO 19th December 2016
* A choke is when one quota in a mixed fishery is exhausted, meaning that the vessel has to tie up for the rest of the year. It is a problem faced when a discard ban is applied to a quota system in mixed fisheries.