Interviewed too politely by Gordon Brewer this morning, Luke Graham, not-so-high-profile Tory MP for Ochil and South Perthshire and former accountant for the Tough Mudder franchise in the USA, tried to tell us that negotiating a new fisheries agreement, with EU access to Scottish fishing waters and with quotas, post-Brexit, was fine because ‘we will still want to fish in their waters!’ I suppose coming from Eldene, Swindon, his family will have a deep-rooted feel for the fishing industry.
Will we want to fish in their waters as much as they will want to fish in ours? I do remember the Scallop Wars off the Channel Islands last year and the Cod Wars off Iceland when I was still at school, but I had thought that Scottish fishing boats worked almost entirely in UK or international waters. Was I wrong?
Supporters of EU membership point out that British fishermen can fish elsewhere in EU waters, but the reality is that Britain has – or at least should have – some of the most productive fishing grounds in Europe meaning there is huge demand for EU vessels to access Britain’s territorial waters, but limited value in British fishermen catching fish elsewhere in the EU. The statistics bear this out. In 2015, EU vessels caught 683,000 tonnes (raising £484 in million revenue) in UK waters, but UK vessels caught only 111,000 tonnes (£114 million revenue) in EU Member States’ waters.
Now, that’s a ratio of around 6:1 in favour of the EU in the context of the UK, 60 million, but for Scotland, 5.4 million, it seems likely that Luke is willing to accept a much more disadvantageous deal.