Shetland: Bell discusses autonomy talks with UK governments
Simon Collins, executive officer of the Shetland Fishermen’s Association, also fears there is little prospect of the situation changing dramatically in 2026, regardless of Government claims to the contrary. Mr Collins was commenting days after the publication of a new document entitled The Benefits of Brexit: How the UK is taking advantage of leaving the EU.
The SFA tweeted about the document earlier this month, highlighting the misspelling of Lerwick, Shetlands capital, as Lewrick.
The report, released by the Government on January 31, claims Britain has “taken back control of our waters” – but Mr Collins suggested the reality was somewhat different.
He told Express.co.uk: “In contrast to Norway, which just says ‘we’re a coastal state, we set the rules’, we’re an impaired coastal state to begin with. It’s like we’re a wet-noodle coastal state. We’re not using any of the powers we have.
“If I was being charitable I would say from the UK’s point of view, there are some big flash-points we know around Northern Ireland so understandably they wish to keep everything else quiet. The problem is the EU knows that.”
Boris Johnson’s fishing deal has fallen far short, said Simon Collins
Shetland Fishermen’s tweet
Mr Collins added: ”Again being charitable, I’d say the Scottish Government believes it can win an independence referendum and then go on to reapply so it wouldn’t make much sense to diverge from what the EU does already.
“If I was being uncharitable, I’d say we’ve got so used to grovelling to the EU, it’s a habit that guys can’t break.
“We’re refusing to use any imagination and it’s just easier to go along with what we used to do, it’s too much hassle to do things differently.”
In terms of how it was sold in 2016, Brexit had made sound economic sense for the fishing industry, Mr Collins stressed.
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Boris Johnson signs the TCA at the end of 2020
He said: “It was a no-brainer. In most years, we land more fish in Shetland than the rest of England, Wales and Northern Ireland combined, a huge proportion.
“Shetland is the second-biggest landing port in the UK after Peterhead. The UK’s fishing effort is very much around Shetland, which are hugely productive waters.”
The fundamental error was the subsequent decision by the UK Government to negotiate away its right to deny access to UK waters to EU ships before 2026, Mr Collins stressed.
He said: “They did concede some quota over to us but it was pathetic in proportion to what we could have had.
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Fishermen in the North Sea
Shetland Islands, north of the Scottish mainland
“North Sea herring for example: before Brexit, we had less than 15 percent of that quota even though 88 percent of it was in our waters.
“Now the EU has said ‘okay, we’ll concede in 2026 a gradual increase, and we will end up with something like 30 percent of that quota’.
“So not 88 percent of it, but 30 percent. Now that’s way, way short. It’s a similar story for hake, for example. We will end up with a share of around 20 percent of the hake quota. And it should be, if you’re going by where the fish actually is, something like 60 percent.
“Now we could have moved a lot closer to those fair figures if we could have that threat of no access.”
European dependence on UK waters
Meanwhile any Government suggestion that the situation will change in four years was “disingenuous”, suggested Mr Collins.
He said: “In theory that the TCA says at that point, you can discuss access. But if we were to exercise it, there would be penalties and the authorities are so swingeing that in practice, there’s no way we would actually go down that route. So that’s nonsense.”
Mr Collins also had some strong words for Mr Johnson himself.
He said: “Fishing was the one aspect where you could see an immediate positive benefit, where you could double the output of our fishing industry.
“So at the last minute to throw us in and say actually, we’re not going to compromise or negotiate about this, we’re just going to throw you to the wolves, that was bad enough.
Exclusive economic zones mapped
“To claim it as some success is really rubbing our noses in it.
“It seems to me that the Prime Minister either didn’t understand the complexity of it or he panicked or something, because the deal he struck actually in some ways gave the EU even more than it even asked for at the beginning.”
A Defra spokesman told Express.co.uk: “Our Fisheries Act creates the powers to build a sustainable and profitable fishing industry across the UK.
“A year on from the Trade and Cooperation Agreement a positive picture is emerging for our fishing industry. We have already seen a quota increase of around 15 percent and by 2026, this will amount to around £146 million, or 25% of the average annual EU catch from UK waters. Our multi-million pound UK-Norway and UK-Faroes bilateral deals bringing significant fishing opportunities for Scotland and for 2022, the EU-UK-Norway Trilateral agreed catch levels show an increase in key Scottish stocks, including haddock (five percent), herring (20 per cent), whiting (25 per cent) and a rollover of the cod catch levels.
“We are also investing £100M so that fishing communities benefit from better infrastructure, new jobs and investment in skills.”