Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has rejected claims that Britain’s fishermen will be worse off as a result of the post-Brexit trade deal struck with the EU.
Fishermen’s leaders have accused Boris Johnson of betraying the industry over the compromise struck with Brussels over future fishing rights in UK waters.
However, Gove insisted they would get a greater share of the fish in UK waters and that could increase over time.
“I think it is fair to say that we are in a stronger position than we were in the EU and in the common fisheries policy,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
“In the common fisheries policy we were only able to access about 50% of the fish in our waters. It is the case that we are now getting a significant uptick in that number, so we will have by 2026 about two-thirds of the fish in our waters.
“This staged process gives us a chance to increase the size of the fleet, to invest in our coastal communities, and, of course, in due course we will have that opportunity to increase that quota even further.”
Andrew Locker, chairman of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, said they would be “absolutely worse off” as a result of the deal.
“I am angry, disappointed and betrayed. Boris Johnson promised us the rights to all the fish that swim in our exclusive economic zone and we have got a fraction of that,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
“We are absolutely worse off. When we were within the EU we used to trade fish with the EU. We used to swap things we didn’t use with fish that they didn’t use and that enabled us to put together an annual fishing plan.
“What we have got now is a fraction of what we were promised through Brexit. We are going to really, really struggle this year.
“When Boris Johnson and his government promised Brexit to the fishermen he promised none of us would be worse off. There is a considerable amount of fishermen – small families, small communities – absolutely worse off by this deal.”