Government Bolsters Position on Fishing ahead of Tuesday’s Vote

10th December 2018 in Brexit, Europe / Common Fisheries Policy

The Government is pulling out all the stops on fishing ahead of Tuesday’s critical vote on the draft Withdrawal Agreement with the EU. Fishing has become a pivotal issue on both sides of the Channel, and the Government amendment, now proposed, will oblige any future Secretary of State to cede access to fish in UK waters only in return for fairer quota shares for the UK. As an example of where change is needed, the UK share of Channel cod is 9%, whilst the French share is 84%.

Government Bolsters Position on Fishing ahead of Tuesday’s Vote

The changes to the Fisheries Bill, currently passing through Parliament, will also make clear that after the UK has left, total allowable catches will be set following annual negotiations with the EU and other countries with which the UK shares stocks.

In addition to these legislative commitments, the announcement commits to public spending on fisheries at least equivalent to that currently received through the EU.

The announcement reads as follows:

Gove announces bolstered Fisheries Bill and £37m Brexit boost for UK fishing industry

Michael Gove today announced a strengthening of the law and new money to ensure the whole of the UK’s fishing industry prospers as we become an independent coastal state.

The Government will table an amendment to the Fisheries Bill which will enshrine its commitment to secure a fairer share of fishing opportunities for UK fishermen.

The amendment would place a legal obligation on the Secretary of State, when negotiating a fisheries agreement with the EU, to pursue a fairer share of fishing opportunities than the UK currently receives under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

This would overhaul the current system where UK fishermen have received a poor deal that is based on fishing patterns from the 1970s. On average between 2012 and 2016 other EU Member States’ vessels landed in the region of 760,000 tonnes of fish (£540 million revenue) annually caught in UK waters; whereas UK vessels landed approximately 90,000 tonnes of fish (£110 million revenue) caught in other Member States’ waters per year in the same time period.

As well as strengthening the law, the Environment Secretary announced £37.2 million of extra funding to boost the UK fishing industry during the Implementation Period. This is in addition to the existing European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) funding, which at €243m over seven years is broadly equivalent to £32m a year. The Government and Devolved Administrations have already committed to match the EMFF funding with around £60m, so the extra funding will support more projects and the sector will benefit by a total of £320m.

Mr Gove has also committed that the Government will put in place new, domestic, long-term arrangements to support the UK’s fishing industry from 2021, through the creation of four new schemes comparable to EMFF to deliver funding for each nation. The Devolved Administrations will lead on their own schemes.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said:

“We are taking back control of our waters and will secure a fairer share of fishing opportunities for the whole of the UK fishing industry as we leave the EU. The amendment to the Fisheries Bill will give legal weight to this commitment.

“New funding will boost the industry as we become an independent coastal state, preparing it to receive a greater share of future fishing opportunities.”

The new schemes will be introduced after EMFF has closed in 2020. Details of these will be set at the 2019 Spending Review. In England, the scheme will:

  • support innovation - in technologies to enhance economic growth, reduce environmental impact and improve fishing safety
  • improve port infrastructure - so more fish can be landed in UK ports, and help the sector take advantage of new export opportunities after exit
  • boost coastal communities - by providing benefits to areas that depend on a vibrant and profitable industry, and
  • help the sector adjust - to new arrangements on access and fishing opportunities by improving capacity and capability to exploit new export opportunities and markets.