Brexit: Raab claims EU trade agreement is ‘great deal’ for fishermen, as firms complain of costs and delays

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab has denied betraying the UK’s fishermen, insisting that the Brexit trade agreement signed by Boris Johnson was “a great deal” for the industry.

Mr Raab was speaking amid howls of outrage from fishing companies, who say that the additional red tape and delay caused by the UK/EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement has led to them losing huge sums from consignments unable to reach European export markets.

And the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation has described the deal as “desperately poor”, leaving many businesses fearing for their survival amid reports of an 80 per cent collapse in the prices they can charge for their catch.

But confronted with fishermen’s angry comments during an interview on BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Raab said: “I think this is a great deal for the fishing industry, both short term and long term.

“We get control over our fisheries back – full control as an independent coastal state – there is an immediate 15% uplift in our access to fisheries for the UK sector in the first year. That rises to two-thirds in the five year transition period, then we have annual negotiations.”

Marr read out comments from Jamie McMillan, manning director of Loch Fyne Langoustines, who said: “We have no sales to the EU, our biggest market for live shellfish, in the last two weeks. If we go another week without that, we are finished.”

And he confronted Marr with the comment of  Donna Fordyce, chief executive of Seafood Scotland, who said: “Some businesses, which may have been run by families for generations, are now days away from collapse as a result of the agreement”.

Mr Raab dismissed the difficulties faced by fishing businesses as “teething problems” and said he was “not convinced” that the thickets of Brexit paperwork and delays were the result of the agreement.

“The agreement we have struck, both short term and medium term and long term, will create huge sustainable opportunities,” he claimed.

“Of course, we’ve always said as we leave the transition period with a deal – but even more if we hadn’t had a deal – there will be some teething problems.

“We’re very focused on working with all of the different sectors, including the fishing industry, to resolve any of these teething problems.”

Mr Raab said that the government was investing £100m into the fishing industry to enable it to grasp the additional opportunities which it believes will be available as a result of Brexit.

Despite warnings from industry figures of boats being tied up at quayside and companies being on the brink of closure, Mr Raab said: “The fishing industry is going to want to increase its capacity to take advantage of those increased stocks.

“That’s why we’re putting in £100 million to shore up, to strengthen, the fishing industry right across the whole of the UK, to make sure that this really important opportunity of leaving the EU and leaving the transition period can be properly grasped.”

Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland Alistair Carmichael responded: “Brexit might be a game to the likes of Dominic Raab and Boris Johnson but for thousands of people in Scotland this is their business and their livelihood on the line.

“Fishermen are telling the PM that his deal did not do any of the things he claimed for it, let alone what he had promised.  The harder the Tories spin, the angrier fishing communities get.

“The government needs to start listening to the people who know what they are talking about and start to clean up the mess that the prime minister has created.”

In a letter to Mr Johnson last week, SFF chief executive Elspeth Macdonald accused the prime minister of misleading the public about the agreement and giving the industry “the worst of both worlds”.

“You and your government have spun a line about a 25 per cent uplift in quote for the UK, but you know this is not true, and your deal does not deliver that,” Ms Macdonald wrote.

The prime minister’s stated approach, known as “zonal attachment”, would have secured British boats up to 90 per cent of the catch in UK waters for important stocks such as herring. Instead the deal actually means the UK share of the herring catch is just 32.2 per cent and for other fish is even lower, while EU boats have “unfettered” access to British waters, she said.

“This can hardly be claimed as a resounding success,” Ms Macdonald wrote.

“This industry now finds itself in the worst of both worlds. Your deal leaves us with shares that not only fall very far short of zonal attachment, but in many cases fail to ‘bridge the gap’ compared to historic catches, and with no ability to leverage more fish from the EU, as they have full access to our waters.”

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