Northern Isles MP, Alistair Carmichael, has criticised the Prime Minister for an apparent U-turn on fishermen’s access to skilled deckhands, after the PM made a commitment to tackle the issue earlier this month. The Prime Minister met and discussed the issue with isles fishermen in July and more recently told Mr Carmichael he would instruct Home Secretary Priti Patel to “seize the matter”.
Immigration minister Kevin Foster, in a follow up letter to Mr Carmichael, justified the refusal to change course on the basis of the impact of Covid-19, an argument which Mr Carmichael and others have said showed “little understanding” of the issue. Mr Carmichael has now written to the Prime Minister calling for his intervention.
Mr Carmichael said:
“The fact that they even engage these arguments just shows how little understanding they have of the industry that they’re dealing with. The industry have been telling them for years that they need foreign crew and that this is the only way that they will get the crew that they need.”
“Many skippers will now be feeling betrayed by the Prime Minister. He flew in, he had his picture taken with some crabs and flew out. It doesn’t look now like much of a listening exercise, it just looks like a rather expensive photo call.
“If he wanted to have his picture on a fishing boat, he could have used Photoshop and saved on the air miles.”
Mr Carmichael has now written to the Prime Minister, asking him to urgently reconsider:
“I believe that this matter requires a specific intervention on your part in order to improve the outcome for fishermen. The industry expects to expand further after Brexit so this demand for skilled workers is not going away.
“We must listen to the needs of skippers and urgently change the visa system for deckhands.”