Boris Johnson: Fishing industry could not cope if no limits on catch

The Prime Minister has defended his controversial Brexit deal for the UK fishing industry, saying he did not think the “resources” were there to cope with the quantities of fish available if there had been no limits applied by the EU.

Scottish fishing boats will have access to "colossal quantities" Boris Johnson has said.

During a visit to Scotland, Boris Johnson re-asserted his belief there would be “colossal quantities of fish” for Scottish boats when his new deal with Europe ends in 2026.

But the deal, which saw the EU fishing quota in UK waters reduced by 15 per cent in the first year and 2.5 percentage points each year thereafter, has been roundly criticised by the Scottish fishing industry, despite many supporting Brexit.

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Mr Johnson defended the deal and said: "Frankly, the only reason I accepted a staggered approach was because I wasn't convinced in my own mind that we had the resources, as a country to fish quite what is potentially available from the get-go, from day one.

"And what we want to do is build up the industry, in Scotland and elsewhere, so that people have equipment that they need, the training, that we have a processing industry that's capable of handling it.

“That's why we set up the taskforce to deliver the investment to make sure we work with the Scottish fishing industry to make sure they are in a position to take advantage of this increase in stocks … to get ready for that moment.”

Mr Johnson has also since had to agree to a £23 million compensation pot for the industry due to losses caused by Brexit with delays at the border and new and increasing amounts of paperwork.

He admitted there had been “teething problems” when the transition period ended on December 31, but added: “We've supplied another £23m to help people who have genuinely experienced extra bureaucratic problems and delays through no fault of their own. And we're trying to smooth all those all those out.

“But it's also the case there is a very substantial increase in the fish stocks that are available to fishermen in Scotland.

"The default position is that the UK as a whole, including Scotland, gets access to the entirety of the fish stocks, you know, in our territorial waters. And that's basically what happens [in 2026] and then subject to, obviously, to a negotiation of a Norwegian style, annual negotiation, which would be very sensible, but we'll get the Scottish fishing communities and businesses access to really colossal quantities of fish.”

By 2026, it is estimated UK boats will have access to an extra £145m of fishing quota every year.

However, Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael said the Prime Minister's remarks were “insulting”.

He said: “There is only one reason why Boris Johnson didn’t meet Scottish fishermen and it is because he is scared to face them. He used fishermen to get what he wanted in Brexit, now he has no further interest in them.

“It is insulting to blame fishermen for the shambles he created. Talk of teething problems is complacent nonsense. If things are as rosy as the Prime Minister pretends then you wonder why they are setting up the taskforce at all?

“Instead of coming to Scotland he should have stayed home, repaired the damage he has done and worked to save fishing livelihoods.”

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