Whilst a large number of Scottish Whitefish Producers Association (SWFPA) members meet today in Peterhead for discussion on measures to reduce Cod mortality, the self-determination Scottish fishermen sought through Brexit is gradually eroding.
The meeting is happening as details from the European Commissioner for Trade suggest that there could be a significant blow to the autonomy of their own fishing grounds as it now seems more likely the Westminster Government will use it as a bargaining chip for access to EU markets.
The EU Trade Commissioner, John Hogan has suggested that there will be a last minute “trade-off” with Brussels offering to maintain City of London access to financial markets and clients in the EU that would otherwise be closed to them at the end the transition period.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Hogan who is overseeing the next stage of Brexit negotiations told the newspaper “There certainly will be trade-offs, particularly at the end of the negotiations. The EU will be seeking concessions on fishery access and the UK will very probably be seeking concessions on financial services.”
In 2018, the financial sector in the UK contributed £132bn to the economy. Compare that to fishing which in 2017 contributed £1.4bn. In terms of economic output, the financial sector contributes around 6.9% to the economy whereas fishing contributes less than 0.15%.
The difference in financial contribution to the economy leaves the fishing industry vulnerable to being ‘sold-off’ again as happened in previous negotiations.
It is still unknown what the arrangements between the UK and the EU will be. The move towards, what is being called “an Economic Partnership”, is being negotiated but will not materialise until March, after the sides have settled their positions on the main issues.
Until then, the fishing industry in the UK will be left to speculate the shape of their future.