Speaking in the Westminster fisheries debate, Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael warned of a ‘total absence of any government strategy’ on fisheries to improve the lot of fishermen and exporters.

He told MPs: “It is worth reflecting for a second or two on how different this debate is today from the ones that we had last year in the run-up to the negotiations. There was a progression of people standing up to hail a ‘new dawn’.

“Ultimately, it turned out they did not know the difference between a codpiece and a codend, and they are more remarkable for their absence today.

“The Trade and Co-operation Agreement did not deliver what was promised. Despite the protestations of the prime minister, come 2026 it is very difficult to see how that will change. First, the consequences for other sectors of any change in relation to the fisheries provisions would be so severe that it is difficult to see any government in five years’ time making that sacrifice if they were not prepared to make it last year.

“Secondly, the terms of the TCA will be changed only if there is a government strategy, and I am afraid the one common thread today is the total absence of any government strategy on what they will do with fisheries policy now that we are no longer part of the EU and the Common Fisheries Policy.”

He highlighted the industry’s problems with securing in-year quota swaps, pointing out that the committee now tasked with overseeing these is ‘at best going to meet four times a year’. “That business was being done on a weekly and sometimes daily basis under the old arrangements.”

Another challenge for vessel owners, he said, related to the employment of overseas crew. “It was a major advance when we got the Migration Advisory Committee to accept that deckhands are, in fact, skilled labour. However, the insistence that deckhands should have a B2 level of language competence means that the skilled labour concession is virtually meaningless to the industry.”

What were described as ‘teething problems’ with exports ‘seem to continue today’, he said. “If my children had taken that long to teethe, I might well have put them up for adoption.”

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here.

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