Bute MP raises Brexit fishing fears

Argyll & Bute MP Brendan O'Hara
Argyll & Bute MP Brendan O'Hara

With the UK’s EU Withdrawal Agreement revealed, Argyll and Bute MP Brendan O’Hara reiterated the concerns of the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO) for the farmed fishing industry.

The Scottish Salmon industry – estimated to be worth over £1 billion to the Scottish economy last year – faces the prospect of high tariffs and lengthy border checks if the UK government fails to secure a future trade agreement with Europe by 2021. However, Scottish Secretary David Mundell has insisted fishing communities “will not be sold out”.

Mr O’Hara, who spoke on the Fisheries Bill last week in the House of Commons, drew particular attention to the dangers ahead when he said: “Argyll and Bute exports huge quantities of salmon and shellfish and we are proud to be the home of many world-renowned salmon, halibut and trout producers.

“They rely on guaranteed, fast, unhindered access to markets, the ability to recruit crew for their boats and they need sufficient numbers of people to process their catch quickly and efficiently to dispatch it to where it needs to go – much of it to continental Europe.”

He added: “I fear that what is contained in the Government’s withdrawal agreement will not be happy reading for the industry. It does not provide for frictionless trade nor does it guarantee access to the workforce that they require.

“It is hugely worrying that this inept government are determined to embark on a course which put this industry at risk and puts Scotland and my constituency at a competitive disadvantage particularly with Northern Ireland who will keep a foothold in the EU regardless.”

These fears were echoed by Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation chief executive Julie Hesketh-Laird. She said: “This document raises the prospect of tariffs being imposed on exports if there is no agreement on North Sea fish quotas. It also raises the prospect of border checks for fresh salmon exiting the UK bound for our biggest export market – the EU.”

Scottish Secretary David Mundell said: “The plan for our future relationship with the EU puts us firmly on course to deliver the ‘sea of opportunity’ Scotland’s fishermen foresee when we leave the hated Common Fisheries Policy. It means we will leave the CFP in December 2020 and negotiate access to our waters and fishing quotas as an independent coastal state.

“We will strike an agreement with the EU – just like existing independent coastal states Norway and Iceland. But crucially that deal will not be linked to our wider economic agreement with the EU.

“The Prime Minister resisted efforts by other EU countries to make that link – and the resolve she has shown so far is proof of her determination to stand up for our fishing industry and coastal communities.

“They will not be sold out.

“The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation recognise the deal ‘gives the UK the power to assert its position as an independent coastal state with full, unfettered sovereignty over our waters and natural resources’. In other words, the basis is there to deliver their sea of opportunity.

“There will be battles ahead. We can expect tough negotiations on fishing with the EU. But the red lines I and my Scottish Conservative colleagues set out have not been crossed. I’ll take no lessons from those who are trying to claim otherwise.

“We now have a deal on the table that will protect jobs and the economy, that can deliver for the fishing industry, that protects the integrity of the UK. It is within our grasp and we are determined to deliver it.”