Senior Tories Gove and Davidson demand post-Brexit changes over fishing
Scottish fishermen made the same demand and said they want the UK to operate as ‘a fully functioning coastal state’ from day one following the exit.
Ruth Davidson and Michael Gove have teamed up to call for the UK to leave the common fisheries policy (CFP) when Britain leaves the European Union.
The Scottish Conservative leader and UK Environment Secretary said it is “vital” that the country regains control over its own fisheries management after it has left the bloc in March 2019.
The call comes as Scottish fishermen made the same demand and said they want the UK to operate as “a fully functioning coastal state” from day one following the exit.
Chancellor Philip Hammond said he wanted to ensure “that British fishermen get a better deal in the future than the one they’ve had in the past”.
But he also said Brexit talks may involve negotiating reciprocal access rights for fishermen from the European Union.
The statement from Ms Davidson and Mr Gove says: “We believe it is vital that we regain control over our own fisheries management.
“We want to use the opportunity of Brexit to secure a sustainable marine environment for the next generation.
“As proud Scots, we feel a particular debt to fishing communities who are looking to government to deliver a better deal for them. We agree we must deliver a fairer allocation for the British fleet in our own waters.
“As we leave the EU, we want the UK to become an independent coastal state, negotiating access annually with our neighbours. And during the implementation period we will ensure that British fishermen’s interests are properly safeguarded.”
The politicians were on opposing sides in the EU referendum campaign in 2016, but say they are united in their determination to ensure “Brexit delivers for Britain’s fishing communities”.
The statement, in the Sunday Times Scotland, continues: “The Prime Minister has been clear: Britain will leave the CFP as of March 2019. We both support her wholeheartedly.
“Whatever differences we had on Brexit, we both agree that our fishing industry stands to benefit from our departure from the common fisheries policy. We are both committed to doing all we can to make those benefits real.”
The intervention follows the recent publication of draft guidelines for the EU side of Brexit trade talks, which seek “existing reciprocal access to fishing waters”.
Mr Hammond, speaking on ITV’s Peston On Sunday, said: “We will take back control of our waters when we leave the European Union. We will become an independent coastal state.
“Now that means it’s up to us to decide whether we would let European fishermen into our waters, and on what terms.
“Clearly, our commitment is that we will ensure the prosperity of our coastal communities in the UK.
“That means making sure that British fishermen get a better deal in the future than the one they’ve had in the past.
“But that may well involve wanting to negotiate with the European Union reciprocal access rights. It will certainly involve negotiating shared arrangements on management of fishing stock.”
The politicians spoke out as the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) set out its “red lines” which the industry is warning the UK Government not to cross in Brexit negotiations with the EU.
The SFF is demanding an immediate exit from the CFP in March 2019, “ensuring the EU does not have the right to grant access and set fishing opportunity and management rules within UK waters during the implementation period”.
Chief executive Bertie Armstrong said: “In her Mansion House speech, the Prime Minister spoke of ensuring ‘fairer shares’ for our fishermen – that must mean an immediate end to the current situation in which EU vessels are entitled, gratis, to 60% of the fish in UK waters while our own vessels are allowed to catch just 40%.”
The SNP has said the UK Government is preparing for a “cruel betrayal” over fishing powers, warning it will never be forgiven if Scotland’s fishing interests are bartered away.
A UK Government spokesman said: “When we leave the European Union, we will leave the common fisheries policy and regain control of access to our waters.
“As part of a new economic partnership we want to continue to work with the EU to manage shared stocks in a sustainable way and to agree reciprocal access to waters and a fairer allocation of fishing opportunities for the UK fishing industry.”