Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has today led a debate on post-Brexit fisheries, six months on from the UK’s departure from the EU and the Common Fisheries Policy. Mr Carmichael and other MPs raised a wide and varied range of concerns from the fishing industries of the UK, including new trade barriers, lack of access to workers, safety problems with non-local boats and a general lack of support for the industry which had been promised a “sea of opportunity” after Brexit.
Mr Carmichael called on the government to hold roundtable meetings with the industry and challenged them to engage with a report he is collating of replies to the fisheries call for evidence.
Introducing the debate, Mr Carmichael said:
“When the holding of today’s debate was first announced I put out a call for evidence to hear the views of people in the industry and its associated sectors. I was astonished at the volume and content of what I received. The e-mails came in from all around the coast. From catchers, processors, engineers, traders – all with the same message.
“The deal struck by the Prime Minister on Christmas Eve is not what they were promised and six months in to its first year it is causing massive problems.”
Mr Carmichael highlighted the reply from a 19-year-old fisherman from Shetland who asked:
“Why is the fishing industry having to fight their own government for survival? Why do their advisory boards have no qualified fishermen or ex-fishermen or fish processors advising them? Why are they allowing uncontrolled fishing by foreign vessels in our waters?”
“In coastal and island communities around the country the anger and frustration felt by fishermen is almost palpable. They feel let down and used and they want answers.
“In January I asked the Secretary of State if he would meet with me and industry representatives to discuss the problems facing the industry. He ignored the request then and since so I make it again today. Will the minister sit down with members and industry representatives? If not then I fear that the anger and frustration that is in the industry is only going to grow.”
Speaking after the debate Mr Carmichael said:
“It took some effort to secure this debate – and the Government clearly had no interest in discussing fishing concerns unless forced – but it was an important opportunity to make our voices heard. The feeling the industry has of being ignored has only intensified over time as even some of the most basic issues they are raising – like safety at sea – are not being addressed.
“The dangerous behaviour of gillnetters and other non-local boats has only gotten worse and we have to wonder if it will take a boat going to the bottom of the sea before government will do something. It is simply not good enough.
“I note that the minister again sidestepped calls for a roundtable discussion with the industry. Based on the level of correspondence I received from around the UK that is not sustainable. I will continue collating these messages with a view to creating a report on post-Brexit fisheries. The minister has an open door to engage with this process – whether she does or not will speak volumes about this government’s priorities.”