‘Betrayed’ fishermen take to city waters for Brexit deal protests

Supporters cheer on fishermen staging a waterborne protest against the EU outside Portsmouth Harbour
Supporters cheer on fishermen staging a waterborne protest against the EU outside Portsmouth Harbour

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FLARES and rockets were set off as fisherman amassed an armada of boats off the coast of the city to protest against arrangements under Brexit.

A fleet of about 30 small boats and trawlers joined the rally off Clarence Pier, in Southsea yesterday.

Supporters cheer on fishermen staging a waterborne protest against the EU outside Portsmouth Harbour

Supporters cheer on fishermen staging a waterborne protest against the EU outside Portsmouth Harbour

Campaigners took to the water in a bid to raise awareness of the plight local fisherman face from foreign, commericial firms in British water.

The protesters have accused the government of leaving the UK’s fishing industry ‘vulnerable to being exploited’ by striking a transition deal that will see European Union policy stay in force.

When Britain leaves the EU on March 29 next year, the 21-month transition deal kicks in – keeping Britain within the common fisheries policy but without a say on how it is run.

Fisherman say the deal is destroying the UK fishing trade and pushing individuals and small companies out of business.

Local fishermen stage a waterborne protest against the EU outside Portsmouth Harbour.

Local fishermen stage a waterborne protest against the EU outside Portsmouth Harbour.

Havant fisherman Sean Heath, 50, was among those protesting on the water. He said: ‘The EU policies are bringing local fishermen to their knees, it’s killing the industry.

‘If things don’t change in two years half of the boats we have in the fleet will be gone.

‘The UK’s fishing industry is dying – big time. People just can’t make a living.’

The common fisheries policy gives all European fishing fleets access to EU waters.

Local fishermen stage a waterborne protest against the EU outside Portsmouth Harbour.

Local fishermen stage a waterborne protest against the EU outside Portsmouth Harbour.

British fishers say waters must be returned to ensure the sustainability of fishing communities in the UK.

The protest, organised by Fishing for Leave, was part of a nationwide campaign which saw about 200 boats taking to the waters.

Emsworth fisherman Peter Williams said: ‘We have been betrayed. We were told we were leaving the common fisheries policy in 2019. Now we’re faced with this transitional period where our hands are going to be tied behind our backs for the next 21 months and there’s nothing we can do about it.

‘This is a way of life that is being eroded by silly rules and policy. We just want a crack at the whip.’

Local fishermen stage a waterborne protest against the EU outside Portsmouth Harbour.

Local fishermen stage a waterborne protest against the EU outside Portsmouth Harbour.

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the UK intended to be negotiating it’s own fishing deals by 2020 which will be implemented in 2021.

During this time, the UK’s share of fishing quota will not change during the implementation period, meaning UK boat can fish in EU waters.

A Defra spokeswoman added: ‘We recognise fishing communities are disappointed – but during the implementation period we’ve negotiated that the UK’s share of catch cannot be reduced, safeguarding the livelihoods of our fishing communities and delivering a smooth and orderly Brexit.

‘It is now important we focus on the significant prize at the end of the implementation period: the arrangements will only apply to negotiations in 2019 – by December 2020 we will be negotiating fishing opportunities as an independent coastal state completely outside the Common Fisheries Policy. This means that for the first time in over 40 years, we will be able to decide who can access our waters and on what terms.’

Local fishermen stage a waterborne protest against the EU outside Portsmouth Harbour.

Local fishermen stage a waterborne protest against the EU outside Portsmouth Harbour.