Sunday, 6 Dec 2020

Boris Johnson warned he must ‘win big’ on fisheries to thwart SNP 2021 election landslide

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Boris Johnson has seen his record with Scotland come under scrutiny as a series of polls carried out over the past two months have shown a steadily growing support for independence. With the election in Scotland scheduled for May 2021, the Prime Minister has now been warned securing a strong deal on fisheries during Brexit talks could help halt the SNP’s path to victory. Speaking to Times Radio Eurasia Group Europe Director Mujtaba Rahman said: “The Government needs a big win on fish to sell the deal domestically to the eurosceptics but also to equip the Prime Minister in the context of Scottish elections next year.

“If he can say, ‘look, I’ve increased the catch and quota for Scottish fishermen,’ that’s a big win”

“So I suspect what the UK will do is move on the level-playing field when they have the concessions they want on fish.”

Fisheries have remained one of the most contested issues between the UK and the EU since the start of the talks back in 2017.

The British Government has maintained EU vessels should no longer have unfettered access to British waters while European Governments have been calling for the status quo to continue past the transition period.

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Mr Rahman suggested the UK could refuse to budge on other key matter of contention, governance, in a bid to pressure Brussels into giving in on the future of fisheries.

He continued: “There’ll be a trade-off between the two and I suspect we’ll get a sense of what that looks like politically probably towards the end of November.

“The process will then be tight but I think you can get an agreement by the European Parliament in December and the thing can come into force by January.”

Many members of Scotland’s fishing community-backed Brexit in a hope the breakup would put an end to the Common Fisheries Policy limiting the type and quotas they can catch each year.

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Elspeth Macdonald, the chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, has claimed the current situation is “very unbalanced in favor of the EU.”

Ms Macdonald said: “The European Union has made an artificial link between fishing opportunities and access to market, because it is significantly concerned about the loss of access to UK waters, and that is the leverage that it wishes to apply.

“It is unprecedented to link fisheries agreements to trade agreements; no other agreements work like that.”

The fisheries expert also insisted attempts to link the trade deal with any future arrangement of water access should be “strongly resisted.”

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She continued: “The international norm for fisheries agreement is that they are standalone agreements about access to the other parties’ waters and fishing opportunities.

“That is very much what we seek. As I said, there is no precedent for a link to trade, and we think that it must be strongly resisted.

“It is also important to think about the balance in trade on seafood. We have spoken a lot about imports and exports and potential impacts from tariff and non-tariff barriers.

“Trade in seafood between the UK and the EU is very much in the balance.”

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