A landmark deal on fishing rights between the UK and EU is understood to be close to agreement tonight – but some within the Scottish sector are concerned it could be a “betrayal” of the industry.
A deal is on the brink of being reached in crunch Brussels Brexit talks, with reports that the four-year deadlock could be broken within the next couple of hours.
Around 75% of UK fish exports, including the most valuable species such as herring, cod, shellfish, mackerel and salmon, goes to the EU market.
Westminster has said that after a transition period it wants exclusive access to the zone six to 12 nautical miles from the British coastline and the repatriation of 60% of the EU’s current catch by value in UK seas.
On Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on the EU to “see sense” over fisheries and said the onus was now on the EU to make a compromise before the transition period ends on December 31.
But Mike Park, chief executive of Scottish White Fish Producers Association, described the deal in its current form as a “betrayal” on Scottish fishermen.
He said: “On the basis of what we know at the moment, it would be a betrayal by the UK Government on the Scottish industry.
“They made certain promises about returning significant increased shares back to us, in terms of stocks, and also about the ability to negotiate annually on access to our waters from European vessels.
“It would seem that in some cases, in terms of the additional tonnages of fish, they failed.
“But also on our ability to negotiate with the EU, in terms of access, that has been an abject failure as well.”
Jimmy Buchan, chief executive of the Scottish Seafood Association, said it was still possible for any of the 27 European nations to “throw a spanner in the works”, but that he was aware a deal was on the table.
He said: “Until we hear the detail of the deal, I think if anything has been highlighted to us it is the importance of the flow of goods either way – in and out the UK.
“If nothing else, we need to get that settled. But we need to be aware that there is a lot at stake for fishermen – and depending on what the deal is, they may find they are not happy with it.
“But it’s a waiting game now.”