Environment Secretary Michael Gove to visit North East Lincolnshire

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 1 May 2018

Environment Secretary Michael Gove is set to visit North East Lincolnshire in the coming weeks.

Ministers confirmed the visit to MPs in the House of Commons last week, although aides in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) are being tight-lipped about the details of the trip.

The Telegraph understands provisional plans have been put in place for Brexit-backing Mr Gove to visit ports on the south bank of the Humber later this month, while also meeting key figures in the seafood processing industry.

There are also rumours that the Cabinet minister will make good on a promise to meet Alfie Royston, a pupil at New Waltham Academy.

The primary school boy is running a campaign to raise awareness of the impact plastics pollution is having on the seas and oceans – an issue Mr Gove has prioritised since being appointed Environment Secretary in June.

The Secretary of State has waged a personal war against single-use plastics, announcing plans for a tax on plastic takeaway boxes and also a bottle deposit scheme.

The news of the visit came with further “positive” developments on post-EU trading arrangements that insiders in Grimsby’s seafood industry said showed ministers were listening to their Brexit fears.

READ MORE: Why these fantastic Tesco fishmongers walked 140 miles from Stoke-on-Trent to Grimsby

Fisheries Minister George Eustice, in reply to a question from Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers , said he was confident trade deals with Norway and Iceland – which supply 90 per cent of the seafood Grimsby companies turn into “meal-ready” dishes – could “roll forward” after Brexit.

Simon Dwyer, spokesman for cluster group Seafood Grimsby and Humber, said it was “more than we have heard in the past, definitely”.

Simon Dwyer of the cluster group Seafood Grimsby & Humber

“It gave us some comfort,” said Mr Dwyer, whose organisation represents 75 business and 4,000 employees in the multi-million-pound sector.

“We were very pleased that the minister gave a response that recognised the importance of trade with Norway and Iceland in particular.

Read more: Trade status quo 'vital post-Brexit' says visiting Norwegian seafood chief

“That was a positive statement and I’ve spoken to people in the sector and they have welcomed it.

“I think it showed that some of the hard work we have done in terms of raising the trade issues has been captured by Defra.”

Mr Dwyer, who is leading the call for Grimsby and Immingham to become “free ports” after Brexit, said the industry still wants to discuss the issue of border controls and access to labour with the Environment Secretary when he visits later this month.

Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers and Poul Michelsen, Faroe Islands Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade

The comment from the Fisheries Minister comes after Poul Michelsen, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade in the Faroe Islands, visited Westminster last week and, according to Mr Vickers, said he was “eager to do a trade deal” to continue exporting fish to the UK.

“He was very supportive of us leaving the European Union and is keen for us to build on the friendship we have,” said the backbench MP.

Read more: Humber and Icelandic seafood clusters unite for trade and innovation

“The relationship with Grimsby is longstanding as their fishing grounds were one of the grounds our trawlers used.

“Obviously they are a tiny country but the warmth and enthusiasm they have for dealing with the UK would be of particular benefit to North Lincolnshire as they are one of the suppliers to the seafood sector.”

Great Grimsby MP Melanie Onn

Grimsby Labour MP Melanie Onn, co-chair of the all-party group for fishing, last week challenged Mr Eustice on what had happened to the heavily-delayed Fisheries Bill white paper.

The draft of the new law, which will outline how commercial fishing will be regulated outside of the EU , was originally due at the end of last year but has been regularly pushed back.

Read more: Will our fishermen catch a break at last from Brexit vote?

There are now fears it will not be debated in the Commons until the autumn.

But Mr Eustice said the white paper would be released before Parliament breaks for summer in July and vowed there would be “plenty of time to discuss the content before legislation is proposed”.

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