Boris Johnson has told the fishing industry that Brexit will deliver an “El Dorado” of riches, despite firms currently reporting multimillion-pound losses due to border delays.
The prime minister acknowledged that “some fishermen” have experienced export problems since January 1, but said his Brexit plan would “deliver and is delivering a huge uplift in quota” over the next five years.
Mr Johnson, speaking at prime minister’s questions, said: “It is absolutely true that some British fishermen have faced barriers owing to complications over form filling.
“And, one of the biggest problems is that, alas, there is a decline in appetite for fish in continental markets because most of the restaurants are shut.”
He added: “The reality is that Brexit will deliver and is delivering a huge uplift in a quota in the next five years.
Worth reminding everyone that the idea of it all being easy in 2026 was already called out by no less than the Chief Exec of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation – change in 2026 would require political will that Boris Johnson has never shown on behalf of fishing when it counted. https://t.co/WkF7NWHI7R
— Alistair Carmichael (@amcarmichaelMP) January 20, 2021
“By 2026, the fishing people of this country will have access to all the fish in all the territorial waters of this country.
“To get them ready for that El Dorado, we’re investing £100 million in improving our boats, our fish processing industry, and getting fishing ready for the opportunities ahead.”
Mr Johnson’s trade deal will see 25% of EU quota handed back to UK fishermen by 2026, after this period, the two sides will negotiate over future fishing rights.
The deal allows for the EU or UK to impose tariffs on the other’s exports in the event of serious disagreements over fishing access, leading many to claim that the deal will see no major change for the industry.
‘El Dorado was a myth’
Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael said Mr Johnson’s promise of El Dorado was “very fitting”.
He said: “The prime minister talks about an El Dorado for fishing. Fishermen may instead reflect on the fact that El Dorado was a myth that led to many wasted lives searching for treasure that never existed. A very fitting metaphor, then, for this prime minister to use.
“This idea of it all being easy when we get to 2026 was already called out by no less than the Chief Executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation – he should stop repeating the mistake.
He added: “Meaningful improvements for the industry in 2026 would require a political will that Boris Johnson has never, ever shown on behalf of fishing when it really mattered.
“Future promises of mythical wealth are worth nothing when the broken promises of the present are costing fishermen right now.”
The comments come a day after Scottish seafood firms were told that they would be able to claim up to £100,000 in compensation for sales lost due to the Brexit border chaos.
Scottish fisheries minister Fergus Ewing described the offer as “too little, too late” on Wednesday.
He said: “As desperately needed as this compensation is for affected businesses, this is merely a sticking plaster for much wider issues and not “teething problems”, as has previously been claimed.”