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Elspeth Macdonald, chief executive officer at the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said Brussels cannot expect continued unfettered access to Britain’s rich fishing grounds and needs to wake-up to this reality as it wrangles with the UK over the topic in deadlocked negotiations. On Saturday Boris Johnson spoke to EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the pair “agreed the importance” of striking a deal while acknowledging that “significant” gaps remain on multiple issues including fishing rights.
Ms Macdonald told Express.co.uk: “As far as fishing is concerned there is a choice for the EU to make to reach an agreement on fisheries that reflects the legal rights of the UK as an independent coastal state.
“And if we can’t have that then the fact is that there will be no framework agreement between the UK and EU fisheries and we would simply go into the usual rounds of annual negotiations.
“So essentially there is a choice.”
She added: “The EU has a choice as to how it wants to go about this.
“We can reach a sensible agreement that reflects the UK’s new equal position or the EU can just negotiate with us on an annual basis for access to waters.
“But without that sort of agreement there is no right of access.”
Ms Macdonald said the fishermen represented by the federation have waited years to reap the full benefits of Brexit and are banking on Mr Johnson to stand his ground in what remains one of the most contentious topics in trade discussions.
The Prime Minister vowed that access to the UK’s fishing waters would not be used as a bargaining chip in negotiations led by David Frost and his European counterpart Michel Barnier.
Fishermen have long called for a release from the EU’s unpopular Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) arguing it prevents them from getting their fair share of catch.
Despite Mr Johnson’s repeated assurances to the industry, Ms Macdonald said fishermen know they are not off the hook just yet.
She said: “They have heard the commitments and the assurances that the Government has given to the industry since the referendum and they absolutely want the Government to hold firm and make sure that they deliver on these assurances.
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“They’ve waited a long time for this.
“They can wait a little longer but it’s about making sure that the right end point is reached.
“I think until the ink is dry on a good deal then the industry will always be worried.
“The industry did feel it was sold out when the UK joined the EU back in the Seventies.”
She said the CFP had put trawlers at a “significant disadvantage” to European boats and warned UK fishermen have “long memories”.
The fishing boss said regardless of how many times the Government seeks to assure them that they will not be “sold out” in a trade deal, fishermen remain anxious.
She added: “We have had repeated assurances from the Government that they will not sell out the fishing industry but the industry’s anxiety is that until such a point when a deal is done, a good deal for them, then that will always be a risk in their minds.
“Certainly, in Scotland many of the people involved in the fishing industry are family businesses.
“They’ve been in it for generations and they remember what happened in the Seventies – we absolutely don’t want to see that happen again.”
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