Boris Johnson warned over Brexit ‘haemorrhage’ of fishing workers

EU trade deal fell ‘short of expectations’, fishing leaders tell PM

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Thursday 05 August 2021 15:46 BST
Today's daily politics briefing

Boris Johnson has come under fire during his visit to Scotland from fishing leaders, who told him that his Brexit deal had “fallen short of expectations”.

Fisheries leaders warned of a “haemorrhage” of foreign workers in the industry in the wake of the UK’s departure from the EU’s single market and customs union on 1 January.

And he heard complaints about new red tape and delays resulting from Brexit which have hit the industry north of the border.

The prime minister was joined by business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, Scotland Office minister David Duguid and Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross for a meeting with heads of a number of fishing organisations in Fraserburgh on Thursday.

Scottish Seafood Association chief executive Jimmy Buchan challenged Mr Johnson over the number of staff lost to the industry as a result of Brexit, which has dramatically reduced the number of seasonal workers in Scotland and had an impact on the seafood sector.

Following the meeting, Mr Buchan said: “I sought an assurance that the government would work closely with us to resolve the critical shortage of labour.

“He agreed that a campaign was required to encourage young people into the industry and on the need for direct action to stem the haemorrhage of overseas workers that has occurred since 1 January.”

Mr Buchan was also among the sector leaders to tell the PM his EU trade deal, which allowed EU fleets largely unchanged access to UK waters until 2026, had fallen “far short of expectations”.

Elspeth Macdonald, the chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said Mr Johnson had a duty to support the sector between now and when the access of EU fishermen expires.

“The prime minister has spoken previously of an El Dorado of fish from 2026 onwards but we are seeking a commitment from him to deliver much better opportunities for the Scottish fleet in the meantime as well as in the longer term,” said Ms Macdonald.

“In the short term it will be a case of survival for the industry, but we want to thrive, and to ensure that we can build back this industry we need to start planning now.”

Ms Macdonald also raised concerns about clashes between the interests of the fishing community and the growing offshore energy sector, ahead of a visit by Johnson and Kwarteng to a wind farm in the North Sea.

“More renewable energy is clearly vital in the fight against climate change, but we need also to recognise that fish is a healthy protein foodstuff with a very low carbon footprint compared with all other animal and many plant-based sources,” she said.

“As well as the lack of fishing opportunities, the industry is facing a spatial squeeze as offshore wind grows.

“The wind blows in many more places than fish swim, and for both sectors to flourish, decisions must be made that allow for us to co-exist successfully.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

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