Battle lines being drawn over fishing rights

BBC News –

Fish have been served up among the main bones of contention between the UK government and the European Union.

The negotiating mandate published on Thursday at Westminster is a long way from the vision for a future relationship for managing wild fish stocks in the European Commission’s proposals.

That comes as no surprise to those who have seen the pre-negotiation posturing – from the rhetoric of the 2016 Brexit campaign, to the priorities set out by Brussels along with the Withdrawal Agreement.

The industry does not matter nearly as much as car manufacturing or finance. In employment terms, traditional fishing represents less than 1% of the UK economy, and little more than that in Scotland.

However, it is of totemic importance to coastal communities and to the governments that represent them. Brexiteers played on dislike of the Common Fisheries Policy, making claims of the harm it did since 1973.

In negotiations to join, one telling Whitehall internal discussion saw fisheries described as “expendable” alongside other priorities. That treatment has been a powerful way of boosting hostility to the EU from Shetland and north-east Scotland to Cornwall.

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