Village News

Christmas Lights

210114 | Eustice grilled on his fishing deal

Eustice grilled on his fishing deal

 George Eustice MP (Conservative, Camborne & Redruth)

Parliament debated the consequences of the EU trade deal as it applies to the fishing industry this morning.

 by Milo Perrin

Camborne and Redruth MP and Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs George Eustice took questions for an hour in Parliament today on the deal that he negotiated with the EU for our fishing industry.

 George Eustice MP

He started by outlining details of the deal that has been called a betrayal by the industry. He said “The trade and co-operation agreement establishes an initial multi-annual agreement on quota, sharing and access, covering five and a half years. It ends relative stability as the basis for sharing stocks. Under the agreement, we have given an undertaking to give the EU access to our waters on similar terms as now and, in return, it has agreed to relinquish approximately 25% of the quota that it previously caught in our waters under the EU’s relative stability arrangement.

“That means that we move from being able to catch somewhat over half the fish in our waters to two thirds of the fish in our waters at the end of the multi-annual agreement. The transfer of quota is front-loaded, with the EU giving up 15% in year 1. On North sea cod, we have an increase from 47% to 57%. On Celtic sea haddock, our share has moved from 10% to 20%. On North sea hake, we secured an uplift from 18% to 54%, and on West of Scotland anglerfish, we have an increase from 31% to 45%. After the five-and-a-half-year agreement, we are able to change access and sharing arrangements further. The EU, for its part, will also be able to apply tariffs on fish exports in proportion to any withdrawal of access.

“Although we recognise that some sectors of the fishing industry had hoped for a larger uplift, and, indeed, the Government argued throughout for a settlement that would have been closer to zonal attachment, the agreement does, nevertheless, mark a significant step in the right direction”

Some MPs described issues the industry has been having this past fortnight as a shambles. Alistair Carmichael a Lib Dem for Orkney and Shetland said “For years, this Government have promised our fishing industry a sea of opportunity, but, today, our boats are tied up in harbour, their propellers fouled with red tape manufactured in Whitehall”. Eustice called them teething problems.

He said “We are having twice-a-week meetings with all the key stakeholders and all the key sectors to help them understand these issues. Yesterday, we had a meeting with the Dutch officials; earlier this week, we had a meeting with the French; and, on Friday, we had a meeting with the Irish to try to iron out some of these teething problems. They are only teething problems. When people get used to using the paperwork, goods will flow normally”.

Steve Double MP for for St Austell and Newquay sought reassurances for Cornwall’s fishermen on future access for 6-12 mile waters.

Speaking in the debate today Steve asked:

“The Secretary of State will be aware that fishermen in Cornwall are very disappointed with the agreement reached on quota with the EU and the fact that their vessels can still fish within our 6-12 mile limit. There is real concern that our inshore fleet, which makes up the vast majority of vessels in my constituency will benefit little from this new deal. So what reassurances can my Right Honourable friend give the fishermen of Mevagissey and Newquay and across Cornwall that the Government will be working with our inshore fleet to make sure that they can benefit as much as possible from this new deal and that they will be in a good position to increase their share of the quota at the end of the adjustment period?”

George Eustice replied “We left the London fisheries convention and gave notice under that because it is our intention that the six to 12-mile zone should be reserved predominantly for our own fishermen, and at the end of the five and a half years, that is exactly what we will be seeking to achieve. There are some uplifts for fishermen in the Celtic sea, and in particular those in Cornwall—as I mentioned earlier, haddock has moved from 10% to 20%—and the Celtic sea is also an area that often had its fishing interests affected by the ability of Ireland to invoke Hague preference, which depleted our share of some stocks, notably cod. With the absence of Hague preference, there will be some other uplifts in those areas.”

 

Scott Mann asked “As my right hon. Friend and fellow Cornish MP will know, crab and lobster exports are a big part of our fishing sector in North Cornwall. There have been reports in the press of delays specifically around export health certificates. Will the Secretary of State outline how widespread this issue is in the south-west and what we can do to expedite the customs processes to ensure that shipments are delivered faster?”

George Eustice answered “The principal issue is that DFDS, which, as well as leading on logistics in Scotland has a significant presence in the west country, encountered some difficulties with the accuracy of the paperwork, in particular the export health certificates, and some particular issues with import agents failing to declare the correct information on the EU’s TRACES system. For that reason, it temporarily suspended mixed consignments—the groupage—until it had been able to iron out those problems. I understand that it may be considering starting that service again next week.”

South East Cornwall MP Sheryll Murray told the Secretary of State that “My constituent Andrew Trust, the owner of Ocean Harvest, is finding that the high cost of border control charges, export health certificates, the need for a fiscal representative in France and the uncertainty that his fish will reach the buyer in the EU poses a real threat to his business. What compensating measures will the Government put in place?

George Eustice replied

“The key thing is to get this process working more smoothly, and that requires traders to familiarise themselves with it. I have also spoken to fish operators in my constituency, which is in that part of the world. Those who have experience of exporting more widely around the world, including to the far east, are quite familiar with these processes and are coping with them, but for those businesses for which this is new, it will take time to get used to the paperwork.”

Commenting, after the debate, Steve Double said:

“I have already met with representatives of the fishing community to discuss concerns they have with the deal and was keen to raise them at the top of Government as soon as possible.”

“I was pleased to hear the Secretary of State confirm in his reply that it is our intention that the 6-12 mile zone should be reserved predominantly for our own fishermen and that at the end of the adjustment period that is what we will be seeking to achieve. I remain committed to working with our fishing communities to ensure they are supported both during and after this time.”

Text of the full debate can be found here on Hansard