An industry pressure group has turned up the heat in a clash with the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF).
Fishing for Leave (FfL), which advocates withdrawal from the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) as soon as the UK quits the European Union, accused the fishing body yesterday of betraying coastal communities.
It comes just days after SFF said the “cliff edge” option for the industry after Brexit was “neither credible nor desirable” – hence a “growing consensus” in the industry, in Whitehall and among the public for its call for a nine-month “bridge” beyond March 2019, keeping the UK under CFP rules for a spell after Brexit.
“This fits with the international fisheries negotiations calendar and allows us to move seamlessly to a normal position under international law,” SFF added.
According to FfL, SFF is undermining the efforts of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Michael Gove and Fisheries Minister George Eustice to free fishers from the CFP as soon as possible.
The pressure group said yesterday it was “disgusted at such a blatant betrayal” of coastal communities by “an organisation that purports to represent fishermen and feel sorry for the remaining members”.
FfL spokesman Alan Hastings added: “The true colours of a small clique of pro-EU corporate interests that run the SFF are shining through – it’s the same old story of why the SFF wouldn’t back EU withdrawal for 20 years, weren’t on the Thames flotilla, and wouldn’t publicly support Brexit even when the opportunity arose.
“SFF hid behind neutrality, along with the EU flagship-controlled NFFO (National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations), as it was left to the majority of fishermen behind Fishing for Leave to fight to escape the disastrous CFP.
“Now with the majority of fishermen and the public voting to take back control of our waters to save Britain’s fish and coastal communities, it would seem they still don’t want to leave”.
The SFF said it was not going to comment further.
FfL sees Brexit as a “golden opportunity” to regain 70% of the UK’s fisheries resources and rejuvenate a multibillion-pound industry for the nation.
Mr Hastings said: “It is vital we take the clean slate Article 50 provides and leave the CFP in March 2019. The EU quota system forces fishermen to discard (fish) in order to find the species their quota let’s them keep.
“If the EU can enforce the ill-founded discard ban, when fishermen will have to stop fishing when they hit their lowest quota, government statistics from Seafish show 60% of what’s left of the UK fleet will go to the wall.”
FfL is pushing for “squatters rights” for the EU between March 2019 and the UK taking its seat at international negotiations later next year.