The pro-European Union campaigner was reacting after Boris Johnson said a campaign to encourage people to eat British-caught fish could help the industry fight back against post-Brexit disruption. Since the end of the transition period between the UK and EU on December 31, fishing industry leaders have consistently accused the Prime Minister of being “in denial” about the scale of the problems facing the under-pressure sector. During a video conference with Conservative MPs from coastal areas, Mr Johnson threw his support behind a campaign to help UK fishermen.
He also promised to do more to address fears over quotas and the ongoing ban on shellfish exports to the EU, which has sent tensions with Brussels surging even further.
But reacting on Twitter, pro-EU campaigner Femi Oluwole wrote: “It’s just pathetic.
“We sell half of all the fish we catch to the EU.
“You knew this before!!”
But his claims were torn apart by several Brexiteers responding on Twitter.
One wrote: “Give it a rest Femi, there’s a time and a plaice.”
Another commented: “Of course I’ll buy British fish; not because of some silly jingoistic faux patriotism, but because I live in Cornwall and local fish here is fantastic!”
A third person hit back: “I don’t understand, is there something inherently wrong with eating British fish?
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He is also understood to have urged coastal communities to invest in more infrastructure to be ready for larger catches, with boats now allowed to land more from UK waters over the next five years as part of the post-Brexit trade deal with the EU.
Great Grimsby MP Lia Nici told BBC political reporter Sarah Sanderson: “We discussed short-term measures how to make sure that businesses can stay viable with the problems they’re having – but also longer term legislation and what the UK can do in order to grow the industry in the future.”
Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, has lashed out at the post-Brexit deal signed by Mr Johnson, and warned the UK’s fishing communities are “very disappointed” with it.
He has argued the agreement provides EU fleets with “free access” to fish in UK waters, but without “securing revised quota shares that would reflect the UK’s new status as an independent coastal state”.
Mr Deas explained the expanded quotas for UK fishermen within the trade deal would “not provide the level of additional fishing opportunities necessary to underpin the regeneration of our coastal communities”.
He added: “In addition, EU fleets can continue to fish within our 6-12 mile limits.”
But the chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations has welcomed the idea of a British-led campaign to help UK fishermen fight the various issues they are being faced with after Brexit.
Labour’s shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard warned “no amount of top spin from the Prime Minister” would eliminate the structural problems facing the UK fishing industry.
Mr Pollard wants people to eat more British fish, but argued: “This in itself will not save the fishing industry from going under because of the poor deal that’s been achieved over our exit from the European Union”.