Ian Perkes knows better than anyone the post-Brexit vision that was sold to the fishing industry by the Vote Leave team and now Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Overlooking Brixham Harbor from his office, the fishmonger remembers meeting Johnson in August 2019, less than six months before the UK ended its membership in the European Union. “He’s telling me we’re going to have to hire extra staff because we’re going to be very busy,” Perkes said. “With all this free trade, they’re going to want our fish.”
When asked how he now perceives the Prime Minister, he paused. “I’m disappointed,” he replies bitterly. “He never mentioned the additional costs.”
For Perkes and others in the fishing industry in Brixham, the current dispute with France over the number of licenses issued to French fishermen to operate in British waters is the latest in a long series of issues that have hit businesses after Brexit. “If there was no Brexit, there would be no problems,” he said. “We got along well before that.
But Perkes surprises with a key confession: he voted to leave the EU. “I’ve been trolled since I first revealed this – but I wish I had voted to stay. I never realized we were going to incur all of these costs. We were told it would be free trade.
Brexit has created mountains of paperwork for Perkes and his industry peers. He says sales are down and costs are up, and it’s all due to leaving the EU. And the last fight – with the French threatening to blockade their ports, adds to their woes.
“It has an impact on Brixham,” he said. “They are starting to block the harbor, we will not be able to send any fish.”
But despite his regrets, he thinks the way forward is for the UK to “strengthen” its position towards France.
“Do they want to bring their wines, cheeses and specialties to the UK?” Let’s make it more difficult for them, ”he said. “Let’s put tariffs on it. Let’s stop Citroën and Renault from bringing cars. Let’s make it hard, as hard as they make it for us. Because it can work both ways.
Morris Reid, a skipper of the scallop Margaret Anne, said a blockade at French ports could potentially cost them up to £ 20,000 every few days. But he believes if Brexit hadn’t happened, the industry would still face one dispute or another.
“It’s ridiculous. The French, if you look at the charter and the allocation of the quota… have about 90% of the quota… it just seems that they want more and more of it,” he said. votes There are elections in France after Christmas Macron is just trying to get the votes It’s ridiculous.
“We studied it. If they block the ports, we’ll get more stuff through Holland.
“Boris Johnson needs to develop and say enough is enough. We should start blocking the ports, see how they like it. It’s ridiculous. There is a very tight deadline. If the scallops are held for 24 hours, they will spoil.
Lowic Farnham, 31, the skipper of the fishing vessel Sanderling, has moved from Jersey to Brixham due to the wider implications of Brexit. “Since Brexit we have been trapped,” he said.
Previously, Jersey fishermen could head straight to French ports, but since Brexit they have been forced to return to Jersey, which narrows the window in which they can fish.
He now finds himself living on his small boat, and his wife and children are back in Jersey. He doesn’t expect to see them again before Christmas.
“I can see here how they feel [about EU membership], but in Jersey it should never have affected us, ”he said. “We couldn’t even vote. We were drawn into it. I wish things had stayed the way they were. I need to support my family. If I don’t fish, I don’t get any money. Brexit has put so many more restrictions. Too many variables.
Others are more optimistic. Repairing nets in the harbor on a sunny Monday morning, Wesley Lowland says it’s true the costs have gone up, but so have the price of fish.
“Sea food [trade] suffers, but I’m not worried. Fish [trade] was pretty good.