January 18th local time, more than 20 trucks loaded with various aquatic products suddenly rushed to Whitehall Street in front of the British Prime Minister’s Office and around Parliament Square not far away, which almost became a seafood market.
These trucks come from some coastal towns in Scotland, as well as fishing towns such as Cornwall and Devon in England.
During the day of the national lockdown imposed by the COVID-19 epidemic in Britain, they broke through the regional epidemic prevention restrictions and traveled hundreds of kilometers to the capital London angrily.
The shellfish and other shelled aquatic products (including scallops, lobsters, crabs, etc.) contained in the car were originally popular exports from the United Kingdom, but due to the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the unified market in the European Union, these fresh aquatic products must be subject to heavy customs inspection during the export process, and fishermen have to fill in a large number of declaration forms.
For fishermen who are used to the past barrier-free customs clearance, the troublesome procedures brought about by Brexit have damaged the freshness of the goods, so they are not selling well, which greatly affects their livelihoods.
In front of the Prime Minister’s Office on Whitehall Street in London, some truck drivers deliberately stopped to demonstrate. Police registered driver and protesters’ information one by one on the grounds of violating the epidemic prevention and blockade regulations, and boarded the car to inspect the cargo.
Helicopters of police and media agencies captured the movement of the protest convoy in the air.
Some trucks were painted not only with aquatic products such as lobster and crabs, but also with new protest slogans: “Brexit massacre” (pictured below), “Incompetent government destroyed our shellfish industry”. Whether on the ground or in the air, people can see the anger of fishermen.
In response to the protest, the Metropolitan Police said that they had not arrested anyone for the time being, but it was clear that the dynamic protest violated the current national blockade order in Britain.
British public opinion expressed surprise at the protest.
Less than a month after the end of the Brexit transition, Britain is now in London, a group protesting with a cauldron and has been the main supporter of Brexit forces for the past five years.
In the summer of 2016, the week before the Brexit referendum was about to vote, Nagel Farage, the leader of the British Independence Party, led more than 1,000 fishermen, piloting more than 100 fishing boats large and small, to the Thames River next to the British Parliament building to demonstrate.
In the subsequent Brexit negotiations, in order to put pressure on the EU, British Brexit politicians also led fishermen to pour rotten fish and shrimp into the Thames River again and again, demanding that the British government control fisheries autonomy and recover fishing rights in British waters.
In Scotland, the majority of Scottish people oppose Brexit. Only local fishermen’s groups support Brexit ideas and become the private foundation of Brexit forces.
What no one expected was that when the Brexit plan was fully realized, these fishermen were the first to stand up against and protest.
Once upon a time, they and the fish they caught were of a pivotal weight at the Brexit negotiating table. Brexit politicians have promised that Brexit will bring the biggest dividend to British fisheries.
Now, the cruel reality tells fishermen that fishing is easier than selling fish. They may have more catches but lose the huge EU market.
The once close European Union fish market now seems out of reach.
Therefore, as in support of Brexit, fishermen used the Prime Minister’s Office and the Parliament Building as the main grounds for protests and threatened to dump rotten fish and shrimp in these places.
On social media, protesters bitterly said that the paperwork required to export fresh seafood to the EU is very complicated.
It not only indicates the product code, type, gross weight, container number and value, but also indicates the location of each fish, shrimp and crab caught, declare the nationality of fishermen and boats, etc.
Fishermen hope that the government can provide new solutions to solve these big problems caused by Brexit.
In the face of fishermen’s goods blocking, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hurriedly decided on Monday (18th) that the government would contribute £23 million to compensate the affected fishermen. This in turn aroused the dissatisfaction of others. Some people say that most of the British fishermen used to support Brexit.
Now they seek benevolence and taste the consequences. If fishermen are compensated for the protest, other industries affected by Brexit should also be compensated.
On the 14th, Conservative Brexit politician Reese Mog countered the accusations of the Scottish National Party MPs on fisheries in a debate in the lower house of Parliament.
He said, “The crux of the problem is that Britain has regained its fishing sovereignty, and people should be happy about it, because these fish are henceforth British fish, and these British fish are caused by Brexit. Become better and happier.”
Meanwhile, Victoria Prentis, the British minister in charge of fisheries, told the media that she has been too busy recently to read the fisheries provisions of the Brexit trade agreement.
These performances of British politicians embarrassed the British, while officials on the European Union side laughed at it.
Natalie Louis, a French member of the European Parliament, mocked on social media that the British now got their fish, so it was difficult for Europeans to eat them, which was caused by the fishest deal agreement.
Throughout the Brexit negotiations, the fisheries negotiations, like the Northern Ireland border negotiations, have been the focus of attention. Analysts pointed out that the proportion of gross fishery production in the UK’s GDP is extremely low.
According to statistics in 2019, the GDP of the United Kingdom was about 2,200 billion pounds, of which 1.4 billion pounds, or 0.06%, was 0.06%.
According to the comprehensive calculation, the best year for fishing is generally only about 0.05% of GDP.
In order to attract the support of fishermen, Brexit politicians once boasted that the proportion of fishery output to GDP reached about 3.5%, which means that the value of British fishery output will increase nearly 70 times from the current level.
Professionals say this is impossible. There are not so many fish in British waters.
In the past, the output value of these fish, shrimp and crabs was artificially exaggerated and became a ballast for Brexit negotiations. And once Brexit politicians reach their goals, they begin to avoid talking about fisheries on various occasions.
Under the Anglo-European Trade Agreement for the next six years, the UK and the EU will have to conduct specialized fisheries negotiations every year, which will continue until the end of June 2026.
EU fishermen’s quota in British waters will be reduced by 2.5% a year, and the existing 15% quota may be reduced to zero by 2026.
Will British fishermen get 100% of the income then? If the EU completely bans British fishermen from fishing, or imposes fishing tariffs, the plight of British fishermen may face more than cumbersome customs checks and document declarations.
At present, in Scotland and other places, the price of fish and shellfish has fallen sharply.
In the face of the cruel reality, British fishermen began to realize the truth of Brexit, and there was increasing calls for a return to the unified market of the European Union.
For its part, the European Union is happy to see the awakening of British fishermen and expects that the change in British fishermen’s attitude will have an impact on the follow-up negotiations between the two sides in future annual negotiations.
Brexit is deep. For British fishermen, they may have a long journey to go if they want to change the reality.