Scottish fishermen take aim at 'bullying' EU over Brexit talks

Christopher Hope
·2-min read
EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Westminster on Saturday
EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Westminster on Saturday

The European Union is behaving "like the bully who steals your lunch every day and expects the UK to be grateful for a few crumbs he hands back" over the Brexit talks, the leader of Scotland's fishermen has said.

Elspeth MacDonald, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen Association, said the EU had to "wake up and smell the fish" after its negotiators offered to give the UK fish "of which we now the legal owner".

The fishermen spoke out as Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, started fresh talks about a Brexit trade deal in London with his UK counterpart Lord Frost.

That came after well-sourced reports in Brussels that Mr Barnier told member states the EU had offered to return between 15 per cent and 18 per cent of fish stocks caught by EU fleets in British waters.

The tortured talks about a EU/UK Brexit trade deal are set to come to a conclusion within the next week with either a trade deal or both sides walking away.

Writing for The Telegraph, Ms MacDonald attacked the EU's stance and its "paltry" offer on fisheries to the UK.

She said : "Let's cut to the chase. The EU is playing a dangerous game over fishing and it is them who would get hurt most."

"If trade is in balance, access to waters is not. They rely on fishing in our rich waters much more than we do in theirs. When it comes to access, there is a gross imbalance on how the fish are shared.

"The threat of making the UK pay a ransom for merely acting in a way that the EU itself acts in its relations with other countries or Coastal States is the wrong way round.

"They say that if we don't give them what they want, the lion’s share of the quotas in our waters and unlimited access to catch it, then we can forget about selling them our fish. No. They are at it. And they’ve got it wrong."

Ms MacDonald continued: "If they don’t stop threatening our exports, then they can kiss goodbye to any fisheries deal. And face the consequence: No access to our waters.

"Maybe, just maybe, they are at last waking up to smell the fish. They have made a small offer to give us a paltry extra share. It would be less than 10 per cent of the total catch. Of the fish of which we now the legal owner.

"It is like the bully who steals your lunch every day and expects you to be grateful for the few crumbs he hands back.

"But maybe, just maybe, they now know their threats are hollow, that international law is not on their side and that they have most to lose."

Brexit: what happens next? Sign up to the Telegraph’s Q&A to chat to our experts