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Mike Park, CEO of the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association, is urging Boris Johnson to secure a fair deal with the European Union which would see Britain enjoy a relationship with the bloc similar to Brussels’ arrangement with Norway. Under the highly unpopular Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), UK fishermen are entitled to only 40 percent of fish in Britain’s rich fishing grounds.
Mr Park, whose association represents fishing vessels above the border, said despite little progress having been made in post-Brexit trade talks, fishermen remain hopeful their rights will be restored in the coming months.
He said while the majority of politicians are arguing over the Prime Minister’s Internal Market Bill, those in the fishing industry have their eyes solely in the prize – regaining sovereignty over their waters.
He told Express.co.uk: “They’re pretty much focused on a deal that can deliver greater shares for the industry to catch, greater shares of fish quotas.
“We are looking for greater shares of the fish in our water in line with what Norway takes out of their waters and what Iceland takes out of their waters, which is about 90 percent of all stocks available.
“This is a unique situation whereby we need to redress the wrongs of the past.
“We currently get 40 percent of the fish in our waters and other nations in the EU get the 60 percent.
“We are looking for control over access on who gets into our waters.”
Despite fears of a no deal Brexit ratcheting up following last week’s unsuccessful eighth round of trade talks, Mr Park said fishermen remain hopeful both sides can reach a deal.
But he said if chief negotiators David Frost and Michel Barnier failed to find enough common ground to form the basis of a deal, Britain’s fishermen nevertheless stand to benefit from Brexit.
The UK Government is demanding a Norway-style fishing deal with annual negotiations over fishing opportunities.
The EU insists any deal must be for the long term and has ruled out annual talks.
Mr Park said he continues to believe both sides will reach a deal but said if that does not turn out to be the case, he is confident “we can still get what we want”.
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Ryan Scatterty, chairman of the Scottish Seafood Association which represents fish processors, said the EU seems to be “holding onto an untenable position” as it demands continued access to UK waters after the Brexit transition period expires on December 31.
Mr Scatterty is managing director of Thistle Seafoods, a Peterhead-based manufacturer of frozen and chilled fish which imports raw products from the continent.
He dismissed fears of a potential blockade of ports by French fishermen if they did not get a favourable trade deal, which could cause major disruption to the flow of goods.
He said while he expects the UK to be faced with “significant challenges” as it becomes an independent state, the fishing industry would reap huge benefits from Brexit.
He told Express.co.uk: “Of course it would be a concern but any action that they would be undertaking would clearly be illegal.
“I can only speak on behalf of Thistle Seafoods and I would say that the industry as a whole probably sees more upside in the medium to long-term of us becoming an independent coastal state with access to more raw material for our own fishermen and our own processors.
“But we would urge the British Government to alleviate any potential border friction to allow the free movement of goods into our largest current market, the European Union.”
But he said despite the lack of optimism from politicians about the possibility of a deal being signed, he remains hopeful an agreement can be reached.
He said: “I am not a gambling man but I would like to think that the track record that has been shown to date is that things are left to the eleventh hour and that they have eventually come to an agreement and compromise.
“I would hope that sense would prevail and they would do the same again. I’m certainly hopeful but I’m also preparing for the worst, as we all have to.”
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