Now we know – Brexit means Chaos

Brexit dividend NO fish
Herring photograph by Zeshalyn Capino on Unsplash

By Russell Bruce

No fish and dead fish

After four and and half years of political posturing and ignoring economic consequences the UK finally got a deal with hours to spare. That the Westminster parliament agreed to endorse it without proper scrutiny in a debate of a few hours spoke volumes for the Johnson government’s disregard for the sovereignty of parliament, supposedly at the very core of the UK’s unwritten constitution.

The Westminster parliament had surrendered powers to Johnson’s executive to get the deal done without due parliamentary process. Johnson likes having monarchical powers but he is not the monarch so when he asked the Queen to prorogue parliament the Supreme Court took a different view and the Queen basically got it in the neck for acting on Johnson’s advice.

At the end of the day the EU said ‘look if those are your red lines here is the deal, just sign here’. The markets were relieved there would be No Deal but Johnson had signed so that could not happen. Johnson could not renege on his signature because the markets would have gone ballistic with even worse implications for employment, trade and sterling.

So why is the no tariffs no quota deal so damaging?

The mountains of paperwork and costs of exporting to and importing from the EU are mind blowing for a Tory party who constantly banged on about EU red tape. Well now we have it in bucket loads, courtesy of an incompetent UK administration.

The sighs of relief have faded rapidly as the reality of being outside the world’s largest market are being felt in all parts of the UK.

Johnson is up to hit neck in rotting fish

Scotland’s fishing fleet supports 4,886 jobs directly. Scotland’s fish farm industry in 2019 produced 203,881 tonnes of salmon supporting 1651 jobs in production alone.

Seafood processing although a small part of the Scottish economy is still significant in export potential and provides vital employment in coastal and rural areas of Scotland. It employs more people than fishing and fish farming combined with 8,900 full time equivalent jobs at 139 processing sites in Scotland.

These 15,915 jobs cover those at the sharp end of production. On top of this are management, marketing, sales and distribution jobs. Very little of this can be saved by switching to the UK market. Over 75% of sea catch relies on export to the EU. There is a home market for fish farm production but salmon has been one of Scotland’s important export products and faces Norwegian competition in the home market.

Norway is in the Single Market. Remember talk of a Norway style deal many moons ago? Norway can export its fish to the EU but as it is not in the Customs Union it faces tariffs and as a result lost 12,000 processing jobs to Poland.

70% of fish from UK waters is landed in Scotland. Scotland’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) amounts to 62% of UK waters.

Fish processing in Grampian region alone in 2015 generated an estimated turnover £725 million – £2,000,000 a day
Seafood processing in Scotland generated a turnover of £1.6 billion in 2016 more than double that of aquaculture and nearly 3 times that of the fishing industry.

(Scottish Parliament Research Briefings July 2019)

The potential impact for employment and income in Scotland’s rural areas looks drastic.

End of EU funding

The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) for the period 2014 -20 provided £86 million, via UK government to Scotland. Marine Scotland delivered the Scottish element on behalf of the Scottish Government covering project selection payment and scrutiny. By May 2018 Marine Scotland had awarded £42 million to 492 projects.

The UK government is to provide £23 million to support seafood exporters this year which will be administered by the UK government cutting out Marine Scotland which has actual experience and knowledge of the industry. This is the real taking back control agenda as the UK government is intent on taking back more and more powers from the Scottish parliament.

Johnson’s ‘the fish are happier now they are British‘ brigade are doing this on the back of the incompetence Johnson’s negotiators displayed. They made such a fuss about fishing, yet constantly failed to display knowledge of an industry they promised to champion.

It is not just UK Fisheries minister, Victoria Prentice, who did not even read the post-Brexit trade deal because a nativity trail was more important than understanding the impact on fishing, but a useless negotiating team that did not understand the industry. The UK insisted that EU boats catching fish in UK waters must land the fish in the UK, probably thinking this would help the processing industry. It entirely escaped their comprehension that if UK boats would not be able to onward sell UK landed fish then adding more EU boat catch with all the complications of trying to export it from a non-EU country to EU countries was a total non starter.

In taking away control of fishing from the Scottish Parliament Johnson is handing over control to the English Marine Management Organisation, Marine Scotland has a wealth of information and experience of the Scottish fishing and seafood sector. When it comes to fish, the English catch is very different. In the south of England fishermen are competing with French and Belgian fishers for the same species – the issue that brought out the Brit Seadog threats of gunboats.

Former Brexit MEP June Mummery – champion of the “Brexit will be great for fishing” cause – has finally realised that Brexit will in fact destroy the fishing industry and her own business. “I have no fish,” she moans… Welcome to the daylight and reality June Mummery.

See also our previous report on Scotland’s fishing industry

Boris Johnson has ramped up his assertion that Scotland benefits from the union. We submit that the impact on Scotland’s fishing, aquaculture and processing industries tell a very different story.

…and the bad Brexit problem stretches across all areas of Scotland’s economy