“I cannot think of a single red line that was not crossed.”
Those were the words put to me by a senior figure in the fishing industry last week – a sentiment shared by fishermen across the country who feel betrayed by Boris Johnson.
Indeed I cannot remember a time when I saw every sector of the fishing industry this despondent about the future. That is why this morning we are – together – challenging the government to change course.
A year or two ago, you couldn’t find a harbour in the country that didn’t have a Tory politician standing on the deck of a trawler posing for pictures.
Now the fishing industry wants something in return for their use as a political prop – delivery on the promises made by Vote Leave campaigners who now run the country. The Tories have had six months to show a scrap of benefit to fishermen from Brexit and they have come up with nothing.
That is why I have gathered submissions from fishermen across the country so that we can look ministers in the eye and confront them with the reality of what our communities are having to deal with.
There is a deep and growing anger in fishing industries about the way they have been treated. Ministers have to understand that this is something that will not go away. The waves of material I have received illustrate a comprehensive failure from the Government.
Fishermen were promised frictionless trade. Months on from the January fiasco, where fish was left to rot due to new trade restrictions, exporters still face structural barriers that put them at a competitive disadvantage in their most important markets. In the long run they are going to lose ground and lose profitability.
Fishermen were promised higher quota. Instead we have inflexible quota shifts that do not work for our boats – often with lower effective quota than before we left the EU. We have won “paper fish” which look good on a spreadsheet but are not what fishermen need.
Fishermen were promised control of our waters. Instead dangerous behaviour by non-local boats, that should have been banned inside or outside the EU, are allowed to continue and the government waves away any suggestion it should act.
Broken promises – and these only scratch the surface. Some fishermen tell me they may leave the industry altogether. Having hung on in the hope of something better outside the Common Fisheries Policy, they now see no future in it.
The industry is desperate. They feel that they have been abandoned by their own Government. They look to the future and see less of a sea of opportunity than a perfect storm of red tape and broken promises.
The government has broken faith with fishermen, and fishermen have lost faith in this government.
After years of neglect coastal communities are demanding better – and demanding answers on the government’s failure to deliver to date.
If ministers do not answer today, it will be glaringly obvious to coastal communities the length and breadth of the country that the Conservatives cannot or will not live up to promises they once made.