Fishermen will not be sold-out to keep Grimsby seafood processors happy, Government pledges

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 23 Jul 2018

FISHERMEN will not be sold-out in order to secure a Brexit deal for Grimsby’s seafood producers, MPs have been told.

Leave campaigners have been concerned that Theresa May’s government would – as former Tory prime minister Ted Heath did in 1973 – agree to allow foreign boats into British waters in exchange for free access to the European single market.

Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers told ministers in Parliament that “in fishing communities there are still concerns that the Government will use fishing in some way and make further concessions”.

But with the Government having laid its cards on the table in recent weeks, publishing both its vision for Britain’s trading relationship with the EU after Brexit and its plan for an independent fisheries industry, ministers have promised there is no intention of striking a deal that sells-out fishermen.

Read more: Grimsby's fishing industry could see a post-Brexit revival, claims minister on visit to town

Brexit minister Suella Braverman said she wanted to make “absolutely clear” that, after leaving the EU, the UK will “no longer abide by the Common Fisheries Policy” and will be an “independent coastal state”.

Martin Vickers MP, pictured during his visit to the Morrisons fish production site in Grimsby, said there were concerns from fishing communities about 'concessions' in the Brexit deal

Meanwhile, fisheries minister George Eustice told MPs on the environmental committee that the Government was treating “fisheries access and management” as “entirely separate” to the future trade of seafood.

Read more: Is the rivalry between Grimsby and Hull over? Why there's been a sea change in the views across the Humber

Mr Eustice said: “We see negotiations on fisheries access and management as being one strand under an association agreement and trade being an entirely separate one. We don’t see the two as being connected. We are clear the two are separate sets of negotiations.”

The Cornish MP, appearing before the committee on Tuesday, July 17, said a reciprocal bargain could be struck with the European Union on food trade.

Fishing Minister George Eustice said the catching sector and the seafood processing industry would be treated separately in the negotiations
“On trade, we will be seeking access for our lamb and our fisheries products and the EU will be seeking access to the UK market for Irish beef, poultry from the Netherlands, pork from Denmark and others,” said the junior minister.

“We have a big trade deficit with the EU and they will want access to our market for food as well.”

Read more: The plan for protecting Grimsby's seafood industry from Brexit has been revealed

Seafood processers in Grimsby – a major hub for producing plate-ready seafood dishes – have previously raised concerns that the industry could be hit if there are any barriers, financial or customs related, to trading with the EU after exit day.

Simon Dwyer, spokesman for Seafood Grimsby & Humber, a group representing the sector, said the deal the PM agreed with her Cabinet at Chequers two weeks ago could help deliver for the industry.

Simon Dwyer and Melanie Onn MP met last week to discuss how Grimsby's seafood sector could capitalise on additional landings after Brexit

The Chequers deal envisages establishing a “common rulebook” with the EU, meaning UK food produce will continue to meet EU standards, thereby removing the need for border checks or fresh taxes.

Mr Dwyer said: “The board has viewed the catching sector and our processing of, predominantly imported, seafood (from Iceland and Norway etc) as separate issues too.

“Trade deals, along with frictionless borders, are important still, as is the access to labour. This appears to be addressed in the Brexit white paper published after the Chequers meeting the other week.”

Read more: Government's Brexit fishing vision revealed - and why it could mean trawlers back in Grimsby

Mr Dwyer said processors were working with politicians and business figures to ensure the industry could capitalise on any boost in the haul of fish being landed in the UK after leaving the EU.

Brexit minister Suella Braverman, pictured with Grimsby MP Melanie Onn and council leader Ray Oxby, recently visited North East Lincolnshire (Image: Jon Corken)

“Concerning fisheries and catching fish that could be sent to Grimsby, we shouldn’t be negative about this,” he said.

“I’ve discussed with the regional local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) and Grimsby MP Melanie Onn about putting a working group together to see if there’s potential for this post-CFP.

“It is important that we have an erstwhile infrastructure to accommodate the future landing of sustainably caught fish – that’s what we need to examine in more detail.”

Read more: Fresh plans for fishing must 'deliver' for port of Grimsby, says Melanie Onn MP

Melanie Onn, MP for Great Grimsby, asked ministers on Thursday, July 19, whether European funds which were previously available to fishing communities – including the cash which partially paid for Grimsby fish market’s 2012 upgrade – would be replaced by the Government after Brexit.

Mrs Braverman, who visited Grimsby last month, said it would be Parliament, rather than the EU, which would be “in control of how we distribute funding” once Britain leaves the bloc.

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