Boris Johnson has said his Brexit trade deal will be “very beneficial” in the medium to long term for fishermen but admitted that initial problems were “inevitable”.
MPs have warned the Government that the entire fishing industry could be destroyed if ministers do not fix customs clearance technology at the border which has hampered fish and seafood trade since Britain started operating on fresh terms with the European Union at the start of the year.
Industry officials said Peterhead in Scotland, Europe’s biggest fish market, has been turned into a ghost town by Brexit due to boats being “tied up” and exporters “crippled”.
The Prime Minister, during his visit to Scotland on Thursday, said he would be happy to meet with the fishing sector to “explain why I think we’ve done the right thing with Brexit”.
He told broadcasters: “Of course, there are teething problems in lots of areas – that’s inevitable because there is a big change.
“We told people there was a big change coming and where people have had problems through no fault of their own, there is a £23 million fund to help them through it.”
But the Conservative Party leader said the new relationship he had negotiated with Brussels would bring benefits to coastal communities that the UK Government would help trawlermen to exploit.
“Be in no doubt that over the medium term, and much more over the long term, the changes are very beneficial for Scottish fishing – a big increase in North Sea cod, in North Sea haddock, in just the next few years, a 25% increase in overall quota in just the next few years,” he added.
“Then, moving to a world in which we really are able as a country to fish the entire stocks in the whole of Britain’s territorial waters and we’re going to help Scottish fishing communities get ready for that moment, progressively improve their ability to take advantage of the position with a £100 million investment in fishing and helping improve their equipment, and so on.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson pictured during his visit to Scotland (Wattie Cheung/Daily Mail)“As you’ve heard this morning, we’re setting up a taskforce to make sure we work with Scottish fishing industry to make sure they are in a position to take advantage of this increase in stocks.”
The SNP accused the Prime Minister of being untruthful with the catching sector.
Karen Adam, the party’s candidate for Banffshire & Buchan Coast constituency at the May Holyrood election, said: “Boris Johnson has been caught hook, line and sinker repeating total lies to Scotland’s fishermen.
“Anywhere this Tory Prime Minister goes, he leaves behind him a trail of lies, bluster and broken promises. He must set the record straight and apologise to the industry for repeating this false narrative.”
The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, asked for its view on the Prime Minister’s comments, said the organisation’s position had not changed since chief executive Elspeth Macdonald wrote to Mr Johnson on January 15.
In her letter she said the industry found itself “in the worst of both worlds” since the enactment of the Brexit agreement.
Ms Macdonald said: “Your deal leaves us with shares that not only fall very far short of zonal attachment, but in many cases fail to ‘bridge the gap’ compared to historic catches, and with no ability to leverage more fish from the EU, as they have full access to our waters.
“This, coupled with the chaos experienced since January 1 in getting fish to market means that many in our industry now fear for their future, rather than look forward to it with optimism and ambition.”