Boris Johnson 'bottled it' over fishing rights deal with EU, says fishing chief

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has “bottled it” over fishing rights as his Brexit deal has secured “a fraction of what the UK has a right to under international law”, according to Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO).

Following the release of the full EU-UK trade agreement on Boxing Day morning, Mr Deas said: “When push came to shove, despite the legal, moral and political strength of our case, fishing was sacrificed for other national objectives.

“Lacking legal, moral, or political negotiating leverage on fish, the EU made the whole trade deal contingent on a UK surrender on fisheries.

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“In the end-game, the Prime Minister made the call and caved in on fish, despite the rhetoric and assurances that he would not do what Ted Heath did in 1973.

Boris Johnson during a briefing on the post-Brexit trade deal

"The UK negotiating team fought hard and long – fishing was the last issue to be settled – but in the final stretch the decisions lay at the very top of government – with the Prime Minister - and he bottled it."

He added that although the deal “will inevitably be seen by the fishing industry as a defeat”, negotiations have been successful in “having fought off EU’s attempts to tie the UK back into CFP (Common Fisheries Policy)-like arrangements”, which will allow the UK to “develop and apply its own fisheries management systems, tailored to its own fisheries”.

Mr Deas said prior to the agreement, the EU “benefited disproportionately from free access to fish in UK waters and unbalanced quota shares agreed in 1983”, adding that fishermen are awaiting publication of “detailed stock by stock schedules agreed” to find out what this means for their businesses.

The share of fish in British waters that the UK can catch will rise from about half now to two-thirds by the end of the five-and-a-half-year transition.

Scrutiny of the Brexit trade agreement with the European Union has begun after the full treaty was published on Boxing Day - less than a week before it is due to be implemented.

Legal experts and MPs were poring over the 1,246-page document published on the morning of Boxing Day, as Boris Johnson worked to persuade Eurosceptic Tories to back it as the “right deal” for the country.