Both sides of the Christmas break have seen intense activity at Westminster as the Fisheries…
Labour and Fishing
The Labour Party intends to engage much more closely with the fishing industry than it has done the past. It is doing so in order to equip itself to be an effective and influential official opposition in fisheries. As a baseline for its policies, it needs a sound understanding of the issues confronting all parts of the industry.
This comes at a time when critically important fisheries legislation, associated with the UK’s departure from the EU, passes through Parliament imminently.
As part of this new initiative, a meeting with key fisheries stakeholders, including the NFFO, was convened recently in Westminster by Shadow Environment Secretary Sue Hayman MP, and Fisheries Shadow Holly Lynch MP. The purpose of the meeting was to begin a dialogue between Labour and the fishing sector to ensure that the opposition’s interventions during the passage of the Great Repeal Bill and the Fisheries Bill, are well founded. Given the electoral arithmetic following the general election, Labour in both houses of Parliament could have a direct and important influence on our future as an industry.
It is not unprecedented for opposition parties to become more serious and informed as they get closer to exercising power, and as they move beyond the realm of gesture politics.
At the meeting, there was a frank admission that Parliament’s knowledge about fishing, generally, was not high. The fishing sector organisations, NFFO included, have to take some of the blame for this as our attention for the last thirty years has been, perhaps understandably, firmly focused on Brussels - because that is where the key decisions on fisheries have been made.
The UK’s departure from the EU and therefore the CFP, changes all that. The Westminster Parliament, going forward, is going to be of singular importance in shaping the type of fisheries management regime applied in the UK, beginning with the Repeal Bill and the Fisheries Bill.
Both the official opposition and the fishing industry organisations therefore have a deep interest in developing a quality dialogue that parallels our dialogue with Government.
The meeting ranged across the sector’s aspirations for the future, as the UK becomes an independent coastal state. The establishment of an exclusive 12 mile zone and the rebalancing of quota shares and access arrangement, were thoroughly discussed. What type of trade regime will apply after the UK leaves the EU and the scientific underpinning for policy decisions, along with the enforcement regime were also part of the dialogue. The need for a responsive and adaptive UK management regime, post-Brexit, contrasting with the rigidity of the CFP, was also discussed.
This was an important and very welcome meeting at an important juncture in the history of our industry. A deeper understanding of our diverse and complex sector is a prerequisite for the official opposition to function effectively and the NFFO is committed to building on this promising start to a new relationship.
The meeting was attended by the NFFO, the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, the UK Seafood Alliance and a representative of the recreational anglers.