The impact of Brexit on Berwickshire’s fishing industry still remains unknown but is very much on Scottish Borders Council’s radar.
Scottish Borders Council recently revealed the existence of a ‘Brexit response team’, which will be made up of council officers with a view to negating the short term financial impacts of Brexit, but when councillors discussed what is likely to happen to the fishing industry post-Brexit they were conscious they still do not have any answers.
At last week’s full council meeting East Berwickshire SNP councillor Helen Laing asked the council’s ruling administration what effects the Borders fishing industry can expect post-Brexit: “With six months to go, does Councillor Rowley still hold the view that fishing exports from east Berwickshire will be unaffected by Brexit?”
Mid Berwickshire councillor Mark Rowley, who is also the executive member for business and economic development, said: “I think Councillor Laing is slightly mistaken to assume that I don’t think there’ll be some effects on the fishing industry.
“The case is that neither she nor I knows what those effects will be. We cannot yet know whether they will be positive or negative, or if they’ll be a mixture of both.
“I’m incredibly concerned about the industry. Fish isn’t just an industry for east Berwickshire, although obviously the harbours at Eyemouth and St Abbs are central to the industry, because the biggest employer in Mid Berwickshire is Farne Salmon in Duns, and is the largest salmon producer in the UK.
“So there are significant implications whatever happens. We simply have to keep an eye on things, and once we know the direction of travel, then we can begin to look at the fishing industry.
“I’d like to emphasise that Brexit is not something I wanted. I have apprehension and concern, but we have a Brexit response team that is focused on the positives for Eyemouth and Berwickshire.
“I’m confident that once the implications of Brexit are known, that we’ll be rigorously focused on what we can do.
“While I sound a note of caution, it’s not all negative. I visited Cornwall recently, and while they have concerns over the impacts of Brexit, they are delighted that they will finally have full access to their fishing grounds, and the opportunities which will come from that.
“I was happy to feast on scallops which were both Cornish and hand-dived, and on some from the French which were dredged by British fishermen. Perhaps that’s the implication, that some fishing grounds will become available.”
Councillor Laing responded by asking for specifics on the plans for a no-deal possibility: “With the Chequers deal described by Sir Mike Penning as ‘dead as a dodo’ and with no plan B in sight, I do worry about the possibility of our langoustines rotting in lorries in queues at Dover.
“Now that we are aware of the existence of the Brexit response team, could the executive member tell us what is planned in the event of a no-deal Brexit? I take your point that we do not know what’s going to happen in Brexit negotiations, but no-deal is a very real possibility. What are you planning for that event?”
Councillor Rowley replied: “The Brexit response team is not a body I sit on, but I do commend the concerns around fishing and agriculture and will bring them to that group and ask them to look into it.”