Non-UK fishing vessels will continue to have access to UK waters after Brexit, the Chief Executive of the Scottish Fisherman’s Federation has admitted.
Bertie Armstrong also conceded that, whilst he remained opposed to the status-quo, exactly the same access that non-UK fishermen currently enjoy, may still be in place after EU trade negotiations conclude.
Speaking on Good Morning Scotland, Bertie Armstrong said: “We’re going to have to accept non EU boats in our waters, that was the position we were always in.”
The comments appear at odds with reports yesterday which claimed EU calls for access to UK waters had been ‘slammed’ by the Scottish Fishing Chief.
Armstrong was quoted in a BBC article saying: “No coastal state currently offers the EU guarantees of access to its waters and natural resources, and neither should we.”
There appeared further confusion as to the stance of the Scottish Fisherman’s Federation with respect to their expectations on post Brexit agreements following negotiations with the EU. Mr Armstrong appeared to concede that having control over our own waters may not in fact result in any guaranteed changes to current access arrangements.
Asked what his ‘line in the sand’ was in terms of any post-Brexit deal, the Scottish Fisherman’s Chief replied: “The line in the sand is taking control, being in charge. The rest is up to negotiation.”
Challenged that this could mean the same access for EU fishermen in terms of numbers as currently exists, Mr Armstrong answered: “That’s exactly right”.
The Scottish Fishing Chief went on to insist that movement on access would begin at some point in the future. He added: “The really important part is being in control and starting a movement towards a more normalised situation.”
Prime Minister Theresa May has already said that “reciprocal access” would be discussed during Brexit negotiations. However despite fishing being an important sector in Scotland, it makes up less than 1% of UK GDP. There are fears that it will not be a top priority for UK government negotiators and may well be seen as a bargaining chip.
Fears that Scotland’s fishing sector could once again be used as a bargaining chip by a Westminster government were raised last year after Theresa May refused to rule it out in her Lancaster House Speech.
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