Boris Johnson insisted the trade agreement the UK secured with the European Union over four years after the Brexit vote would return to Britain full control of fishing waters. The two sides agreed to a gradual return of quotas over five years before starting annual negotiations to regulate access to British waters from 2026. But despite the Prime Minister’s claims of success, fishermen slammed the deal and said the agreement is “not what we wanted.”
Fisherman Sprat Smith told Al Jazeera: “It’s not what we wanted. It’s not what we asked for.
“I think we all knew, deep down, we’d get sh***ed, used as a lever. But I don’t think we all thought it would be this bad.”
Trawlerman Sean Beck, who originally voted to Remain in the European Union, said it had been “nonsense” to suggest fishermen would gain control back of fisheries with Brexit.
Mr Beck said: “We were sold as the poster boys of Brexit and it was all about reclaiming our waters and getting our territory back.
“It was all nonsense. Eventually, I will spend 35-40 percent of my year in French waters.
“We land in Holland, we send our boats to Holland for refit. We haven’t got the infrastructure to refit this boat here so we are closely, geographically and politically, tied with Europe.”
He added: “This whole thing was just pointless.”
The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) also claimed the trade deal struck with Brussels had left the industry feeling frustrated about the long-term implications.
Chief Executive Barrie Deas said: “There have been some marginal changes on the quota shares but we’re tied back into an arrangement that gives access to the EU fleet to our waters up to the six-mile limit.
“We thought an exclusive 12-mile limit was an absolute red line for the UK. That hasn’t held.”
Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chair Elspeth Macdonald warned the agreement failed to deliver on the pledges the UK Government made over the years.
Ms Macdonald said: “The principles that the government said it supported – control over access, quota shares based on zonal attachment, annual negotiations – do not appear to be central to the agreement.
“After all the promises given to the industry, that is hugely disappointing.”
Environmental activists have also urged the British Government to take further action in preventing EU-flagged super trawlers from entering British waters now the UK is out of the European Union.
Greenpeace UK’s head of oceans Will McCallum said:” The Prime Minister has just claimed that now the UK has left the EU, the government will take action against the large-scale destructive fishing that is hoovering up fish at an unsustainable rate, often in some of the UK’s most sensitive marine environments.
“If he meant what he said, he should take the immediate step of banning bottom trawling and supertrawlers over 100 metres long from the entirety of the UK’s network of marine protected areas.
“Unless we start properly protecting these fragile habitats from the most damaging examples of industrial fishing, the UK cannot lay claim to being a world leader in ocean protection.”