Boris Johnson slammed for fishing 'betrayal' in small print of Brexit deal

Boris Johnson has been accused of “betraying” the fishing industry over the small print of his Brexit deal.

The Prime Minister boasted his 1,246-page pact would make Britain an “independent coastal state with full control of our waters”.

He said it would hand around 25% of the value of the EU’s current catch in UK waters back to UK fishermen by summer 2026.

And he said after 2026, there was “no theoretical limit” on what British boats could land.

But the small print of his deal, published on Boxing Day, reveals changes in quotas vary dramatically depending on which species is being caught in which part of the sea.

And after 2026, EU fishing in UK waters won’t end – instead there will be annual negotiations over what is caught.

The small print of the Brexit deal shows it’s a lot more nuanced than the PM claimed (file photo)

The deal says those negotiations “should normally” lead to each side getting a quota that’s “reasonably commensurate” with what they had before.

And if the UK acts unfairly, the EU can take “compensatory measures” or – in the worst case scenario – collapse the trade deal entirely.

Michael Gove insisted fishing had not been betrayed and promised a funding package for the industry in the near future.

But National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations chairman Andrew Locker said the industry had been “betrayed” by the Prime Minister.

Boris Johnson promised us the rights to all the fish that swim in our exclusive economic zone and we have got a fraction of that,” he said.

The UK will only take back 4% of the EU’s catch of sole in the Western Channel, off the coast of Cornwall

“We are absolutely worse off. When we were within the EU we used to trade fish with the EU.

“We used to swap things we didn’t use with fish that they didn’t use and that enabled us to put together an annual fishing plan.

“What we have got now is a fraction of what we were promised through Brexit.

“We are going to really, really struggle this year.”

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon claimed “the Tories have sold out Scottish fishing all over again”. She added: “Promises they knew couldn’t be delivered, duly broken.”

Until 2026, the small print of the Brexit deal reveals a gulf between winners and losers depending on what type of fish they catch and where.

Ministers boasted the pact would hand around 25% of the value of the EU’s current catch in UK waters back to UK fishermen in the five-and-a-half-year transition period.

However, the exact changes in quotas depend on which species is involved, and in which region of the seas around Britain they are caught.

A complex table spanning several pages shows the UK share of cod West of Scotland will soar from 69.8% to 81.2% by 2026 – taking back 38% of what EU boats currently catch in the area.

But the UK will only take back 4% of the EU’s catch of sole in the Western Channel, off the coast of Cornwall.

Brexit trade deal talks were held up for months over two main issues.

Fishing: The two sides were split over two issues – quotas and access. In 2012-16, 56% of the fish in UK waters was caught by EU boats and 44% by UK boats. Britain wanted both more quota to catch its own fish, and ultimate control over who accesses the waters. Both sides agreed a five-and-a-half-year transition period before the UK has full sovereignty over its own waters. This was more than the three years originally demanded by the UK. Meanwhile the UK share of fish caught in its own waters will rise to reclaim 25% of fish currently caught by EU trawlers by 2026. Originally the UK had demanded 80% of the EU’s quotas in UK waters.

Level playing field: This means how closely we follow EU rules in the future, to stop us undercutting businesses on the continent. The UK wanted to be free to set its own laws in areas like labour, environment, climate, and subsidies for businesses (“state aid”). But the EU originally demanded “equivalence”, with the UK “mirroring” EU rules in future. In the end, the EU won its demand for both sides to have a “level playing field” in which neither side will “grant unfair subsidies or distort competition”. But the deal stops short of the EU’s original demands for the UK to mirror EU laws. Instead the PM said each side will be able “as sovereign equals” to take action if the other side undercuts their industry – but this should only be done infrequently. The PM admitted the EU would be able to slap tariffs on UK exports and vice versa if the UK is seen to undercut EU rules. But he insisted it would have to be “proportionate” and “subject to arbitration”.

That is because the UK quota of Western Channel sole will only rise from 61.0% to 62.5% over five years.

The UK will take 23% of the EU’s current catch of North Sea hake, 14% of its North Sea haddock, 12% of its Western mackerel, and 9% of its catch of North Sea cod.

For other species, such as Northern Prawn in the North Sea, the UK/EU quotas will remain unchanged.

Michael Gove hit back at claims fishermen had been sold out.

The Cabinet Office minister said: “I don’t accept that.

“I think it is fair to say that we are in a stronger position than we were in the EU and in the Common Fisheries Policy. In the Common Fisheries Policy we were only able to access about 50% of the fish in our waters.

Some of the tables in the small print of the Brexit deal

“It is the case that we are now getting a significant uptick in that number, so we will have by 2026 about two-thirds of the fish in our waters.

“This staged process gives us a chance to increase the size of the fleet, to invest in our coastal communities, and, of course, in due course we will have that opportunity to increase that quota even further.”

He continued: “We will use the time to invest in the UK fleet and our communities, to make sure they can take full advantage of the riches flowing back to us, and to build a sustainable industry and healthy stocks.

“I am delighted to say that details of a major funding package will be announced in the very near future.”


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