Fisheries: Oral questions following the Prime Minister’s statement

Following on from Mrs May’s announcement last week that Article 50 had finally been triggered, it was encouraging to note how many oral and written questions on the subject of fisheries were asked. Equally encouraging were the answers from the Prime Minister. We are still some way off from any definitive statement about future fisheries policies, but there seems to be a growing recognition of the problems that would ensue by transposing fisheries Regulation 1380/2013 onto the UK statute books.   Here are the questions and answers in full, with my observations and comments in italics:-

 ORAL QUESTIONS

(1) Mr Owen Paterson (North Shropshire) (Con)

May I thank my right hon. Friend for and congratulate her on resolutely sticking to her promise to the British people to trigger article 50 before the end of March? There will be celebrations all around the country, nowhere more so than in our remote coastal communities, where the health and wealth of our fishing grounds has been trashed by the common fisheries policy. To re-establish fully our national control of the full exclusive economic zone, we will have to abrogate our membership of the 1964 London convention on fisheries, which requires two years’ notice. Does my right hon. Friend intend to trigger that soon?

The Prime Minister

I know that my right hon. Friend has always had a particular interest in the impact of the common fisheries policy, and he has looked at that issue very carefully. We are looking very carefully at the London fisheries convention and at what action needs to be taken. He is right that this would require two years, but we of course expect to conclude the deal with the European Union within two years and there will then, as I have indicated, be an implementation period beyond that particular time. We hope to be able to say something about the London fisheries convention soon

(At least we have confirmation that they know all about London convention – JA)

(2) Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab)

On what is a genuinely historic day for our country, may I pay tribute to the Prime Minister and to the Brexit Ministers for their determination and dedication in getting to this stage today to implement the will of the British people? Does she agree that one area on which we should be able to move forward very quickly in negotiations is getting back control of our fishing grounds?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson), the former Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, mentioned the London fisheries convention. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is looking at this issue and we hope to be able to say something soon. As we look at the whole raft of negotiations, we will be looking at policies that affect not just trade in goods and services, but agriculture and fisheries here in the United Kingdom, and security and crime. We will be looking particularly at the London fisheries convention in due course

(Further confirmation that Fisheries are being looked into)

(3) Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con)

For those of us who campaigned and voted for Brexit not just last year, but in 1975 this is a great day and one for celebration. Some 70% of my Cleethorpes constituents and of those in neighbouring Grimsby voted for Brexit last June, partly as a result of continuing anger and resentment at the sell-out of the fishing industry in the original negotiations. The Prime Minister has already reassured me that the fishing industry will be looked after, but the associated seafood industry is very much dependent on the fishing industry. I have already met industry leaders in my constituency who see both opportunities and concerns, so will she reassure me that the seafood processing industry will be a key part of the negotiations?

The Prime Minister

I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that we want to ensure not only that we get a good future for our fishing industry, but that those parts of industry that rely on fishing will also have a good future here in the UK. We will be taking that into account.

(This looks as if they are keen to address the concerns of fishermen, but do they fully understand the pitfalls?)

(4) Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) (Con)

I welcome the Prime Minister’s clear commitment to a positive, constructive and respectful approach to the negotiations that lie ahead. May I press her further on behalf of the fishing community in my constituency and around the United Kingdom? She will know that in the past these people have been badly let down during negotiations, so ​will she give an equally clear commitment that the fishing community will receive a sufficiently high priority during the negotiations ahead?

The Prime Minister

I can confirm to my hon. Friend that we are very conscious of the needs of the fishing industry. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been talking to the fishing industry. The Secretary of State and others have been looking carefully at the arrangements that will need to be put in place in the interests of the fishing industry, and that will be an important part of our considerations in future.

(I would love to know exactly who within the fishing industry they  have been talking to!)

WRITTEN QUSTIONS

(1) Kevin Hollinrake Conservative, Thirsk and Malton

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which EU fishery regulations will be transferred to domestic legislation through the Great Repeal Bill.

George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

We are currently analysing all EU fisheries legislation. No decision has yet been made on the extent to which the EU legislation governing the Common Fisheries Policy will be incorporated into domestic law.

The Government remains fully committed to controlling and managing UK waters after we leave the EU in accordance with our rights and obligations under international law.

We are considering the issue of the London Fisheries Convention carefully to ensure we have full control of UK waters after we leave the EU and, as the Prime Minister said on 29th March 2017, we hope to be able to say something about it soon

(2) Lord Pearson of Rannoch UKIP

To ask Her Majesty’s Government under what arrangements vessels of other EU member states fish in UK waters between the six and 12 nautical mile limits; and by what process those arrangements could be terminated.

 Lord Gardiner of Kimble The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Under Article 5 (2) of Council Regulation 1380/2013 on the Common Fisheries Policy, and the 1964 London Fisheries Convention, vessels from Belgium, Germany, France, Netherlands, Denmark and the Republic of Ireland have access to fish in the UK’s six to twelve nautical mile zone.

In order to withdraw from the London Convention signatories must give two years notice

(3) Lord Pearson of Rannoch UKIP

To ask Her Majesty’s Government under what arrangements vessels of other EU member states fish in the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone between the 12 and 200 nautical mile limits; and by what process those arrangements could be terminated.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Under the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy regime vessels from EU Member States have access to fisheries in the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) between the 12 and 200 nautical mile limit. When it leaves the EU, the UK will control access to fisheries in its EEZ and will manage its waters in accordance with international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Print Friendly

1 comment

  1. John Petley
    John PetleyReply

    Fishing for Leave posted the following comment:-

    Fishing for Leave expressed incredulity at the governments failure to denounce the London Fisheries Convention of 1964 last week.

    This was despite the issue being covered by the Times, Telegraph, Daily Mail, Express and Sun citing a Downing Street leak suggesting that the government would act in the national interest and secure the strongest possible hand by regaining control of all access rights to fish in UK waters.

    The London Convention recognised historic rights of access for European nations to fish in UK waters between 6 and 12 miles from the shore. As it pre-dates our membership of the EU it would still apply upon withdrawal when the access to 12 to 200 miles given under the EU CFP would “cease to apply” as per the terms of Article 50 Section 3.

    As this convention requires two years notice to be served this had to be done to concur notice was with the two-year time period of Article 50 to avoid an overlap, however the government has failed to do so.

    Fishermen’s organisation Fishing for Leave, who first highlighted this crucial matter, issued a statement saying “The government has been aware of the issue for months and we have made strenuous efforts to brief MPs, Lords, Defra and DexEU at how imperative it was that this Convention was scrapped to secure our waters and avoid an access overlap”.

    “They are fully aware of the issue so why haven’t they acted to do so? What is there to delay upon?”

    The issue surrounding this Convention was raised by Owen Paterson and Kate Hoey during the announcement of Article 50 in the Commons. With the Prime Ministers answers confirming that she is fully aware of the diplomatic necessity of this to British interests.

    The PM said that the government“.. hope to be able to say something about the London fisheries convention soon”.

    Fishing for Leave said “We have written to confirm when “soon” is and if the government truly intend to secure UK waters or continue to prevaricate after 8months on the issue?

    “We now have a situation of an overlap between the date of withdrawal and when the London Convention will end. Diplomatically this mean that the EU’s vessels will be able to continue to fish between 6 & 12 miles from our shores”.

    “They can thereafter claim continuity of rights and the government would become embroiled in a fight to remove them that could have easily been avoided by serving notice on this convention at the same time as Article 50.”

    “This indicates that either the government is aware that there will be an extension to the 2 year time period of Article 50 or that they have no intention of being contentious over fisheries and are kicking the can down the road”.

    The Prime Ministers strange, uncomfortable and contradictory answer is suggestive that something is going on.
    “He (Owen Paterson) is right that this would require two years, but we of course expect to conclude the deal with the European Union within two years and there will then, as I have indicated, be an implementation period beyond that particular time?

    “Firstly, if the government intends to withdraw in under 2 years why has the 2 years notice to secure our waters not been issued already?”

    “Secondly, and more disconcerting, what is this implementation period that is mentioned here? Is the UK going to be half in and half out the EU in some sort of transitional limbo?”

    “Brexit was about regaining sovereignty and control of our borders and the London Convention is one of the immediate tests of the government and MP’s resolve on Brexit”.

    “We therefore hope that the government can clarify why this is the case and what commitment it intends to give to act and in what time frame.”

Leave a comment