As the reality of leaving the EU takes shape, UK fishermen are bleak about their industry’s future. (Photo: Fishermen's Mission)
'We have been hijacked': fishermen feel used over Brexit
Saturday, March 24, 2018, 12:00 (GMT + 9)
On a clear day, the fishermen who dreamed of Brexit can still glimpse their imagined future on the horizon. Just six miles out at sea from ports such as Selsey, in Sussex, they track the progress of larger European vessels whose preferential rights to fish in British waters have long been a source of envy.
“It’s sickening to see them from here while we are tied up,” says Tony Delahunty, who finally sold his family boat two weeks ago after 43 years scratching a living along the south coast. His son has gone into landscape gardening, and hopes of keeping others in the industry with the promise of change are receding fast.
For Delahunty’s entire career, a lopsided system of quotas has granted up to 84% of the rights to fish some local species, such as English Channel cod, to the French, and left as little as 9% to British boats. Add on a new system that bans fishermen from throwing away unwanted catch and it becomes almost impossible to haul in a net of mixed fish without quickly exhausting more limited quotas of “choke” species such as cod.
Leaving the EU was meant to change all that. Slowly recovering fish stocks would still need to be carefully managed, but the British industry became the poster child for those who argued that quotas could be rebalanced and rules drawn up more pragmatically to suit local conditions. The tiny domestic industry was held up as the one unambiguous beneficiary of Brexit, a symbol of everything that “taking back control” would be about.
Instead, growing numbers of British fishermen feel they have been part of a bait-and-switch exercise – a shiny lure used to help reel in a gullible public. Despite only recently promising full fisheries independence as soon as Brexit day on 29 March 2019, the UK government this week capitulated to Brussels’ demand for it to remain part of the common fisheries system until at least 2021, when a transition phase is due to end. Industry lobbyists fear that further cave-ins are now inevitable in the long run as the EU insists on continued access to British waters as the price of a wider post-Brexit trade deal.
“The perception is we have been hijacked,” says Delahunty. “That’s the anger on the coast. We have been lied to.” (continue...)
Written by Dan Roberts Brexit policy editor / theguardian.com | Read full story here