Grimsby MP Melanie Onn blasts ministers for 'trading away' fishing in Brexit transition deal

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 21 Mar 2018

The fishing agreement struck as part of the Brexit transition deal bears “all the hallmarks of a capitulation”, according to the industry’s national body.

Brexit Secretary David Davis and Michel Barnier, the chief negotiator for the European Union, revealed they had agreed terms for transition deal, a period designed to give the UK breathing space between 2019 and 2021 to get the fine details of Brexit sorted.

But fishing industry representatives blasted the agreement, saying it kept in place the “exploitative relationship” the European Union enjoys in terms of access to UK waters. The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) says EU fishermen take four times as much fish from UK waters as vice-versa.

READ MORE: Grimsby's fishing industry revival not guaranteed after Brexit, says North Lincs MEP

Melanie Onn, Labour MP for Grimsby, accused the Government of being “very quick to trade away” the British fishing industry.

Mr Davis confirmed Britain will continue to abide by Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) rules on fish quotas until 2021 and that ministers will have no seat at the table in 2019 when fisheries negotiations are going on.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove wades has promised Britain will leave the CFP after Brexit (Image: PA)

Environment Secretary Michael Gove had previously said the UK would become an independent coastal state after the Brexit deadline, taking control of its waters from day one.

There are hopes that Grimsby’s fishing industry could be revived upon exiting the EU but any possible uplift will now have to wait until after the transition deal.

READ MORE: Grimsby's Ice Factory named one of seven most endangered heritage sites in Europe

Under the terms of the agreed transition deal, the UK will leave the EU on March 29, 2019, but enter a transition phase during which it will trade like it did as a member state, with continued access to the single market and the customs union.

The UK will be able to conduct free trade negotiations with other countries during the 21-month period and in turn will allow EU citizens to settle in the country during that time.

But it was the fishing agreement which caused concern, with the NFFO saying the Government had created an arrangement “worse than we had before”.

The NFFO is worried the Government will give way on the EU’s demands when it comes to a final deal, having done so at the transition phase. The EU remains determined to retain access to UK waters even after Brexit.

READ MORE: Theresa May reveals EU wants never-done-before deal to continue fishing UK waters

“This is being presented as tactical concession that will not prejudice our longer term aims. But it has all the hallmarks of a capitulation,” said a spokesman for the federation.

Ms Onn, co-chair of the all-party group for fishing, was highly critical of ministers’ decision to backtrack on a commitment to pull out of the CFP by 2019.

Trawlermen on England's east coast are hoping for more fish to be available to catch after the UK leaves the CFP

“The decision to continue with the CFP will bring cold comfort to coastal fishing communities that were promised a revival of their fortunes,” said the Great Grimsby MP.

“This Government has been very quick to trade away the British fishing industry in the earliest phases of negotiation, which does not bode well for the deal that comes after the transitional phase.”

Conservative MPs were invited to a meeting with the Chief Whip on Monday evening to discuss concerns after a number of Scottish Tory MPs from coastal communities vowed to vote against a transition deal as it stands.

Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers met with the Chief Whip to discuss his concerns about the transition deal

Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers was due at the meeting and, speaking beforehand, said he wanted reassurances the UK would have a voice at the 2019 negotiations.

In 2018, the UK will still be a member so will be able to negotiate quota even though it will be outside the EU three months later.

Mr Vickers said: “Without knowing the small print at this stage, if it is the case that we are obliged to follow CFP rules during the transition period, then quite clearly we must have a voice in the CFP.”

Meanwhile, Ms Onn welcomed the news that trading terms for the town’s main industries – seafood processing and transport logistics by road and ship – would not be interrupted by customs checks in the lead-up to Britain’s EU exit in December 2020.

Hull-based MEP Mike Hookem, who stood for UKIP against Melanie Onn in the last general election, says the UK fishing industry has been "betrayed" in a Brexit transition deal announced by the government and the European Union.

Under the deal, the industry will continue to be regulated by the EU until 2021.

During that time, the UK will not be able to veto any changes to EU fishing policy.

Mr Hookem, who is UKIP's deputy interim leader, said: "This is a worst case scenario for fishermen and coastal communities.

"Rather than regaining the fishing industry, as is our right under international law, Theresa May and David Davis have actually further weakened our ability to make policy in UK waters.

"When the EU say they will allow consultation on fishing rules, we all know that means the UK will be totally ignored. It's bad enough at the moment while we are still part of the EU.

"The simple fact is, the Tories betrayed the fishing industry on the way into the EU, and totally shafted the same sector on the way out.

"While I have no doubts that those earning millions in the City each year will be celebrating this deal, many struggling fishermen will know that this deal could mean the end of the line for them and their communities."

Holly Lynch, Labour's shadow fisheries minister, said: "Environment secretary Michael Gove has been promising the fishing industry that the UK would take back absolute control of our waters from day one of leaving the EU.

"We now know that the rest of the government have been having very different conversations with the EU27 and it is understandable that fishing communities feel angry and let down.

The Brexit transition deal has created more uncertainty for the UK fishing industry

"The government must now be clear about who is leading these negotiations on fishing, Michael Gove or Theresa May, and be completely honest with the fishing industry about what this means for transition and beyond."

Mr Davis, the Haltemprice and Howden MP, has led the UK's Brexit negotiating team.

Announcing the transition deal, he said: "We have agreed specific safeguards when it comes to annual fishing negotiations. These arrangements will only apply for the negotiations in 2019 since we will still be a member state.

"Through 2020, we will be negotiating fishing as an independent coastal state, deciding who can access our waters and on what terms."

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