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

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 19 Mar 2018

THE rebirth of Grimsby’s fishing industry might not materialise after Brexit, a North Lincolnshire MEP has warned.

Richard Corbett told an audience at Grimsby Town Hall that “Brexit will not resemble what was promised” for fishermen due to “complexities” in the upcoming exit negotiations, casting doubt over the revival of the town’s once-renowned fishing industry. 

The leader of Labour MEPs in Brussels said the UK might not be able to catch more fish or stop European boats from fishing in British waters due to “legal and practical reasons”.

“I am wary that much of the hoped-for-benefits for the sector might in fact not be so simple,” said Mr Corbett, a member of the European Union fisheries committee.

“It is full of complexities and, if the negotiations don’t go well, then the promises that were made by the leave campaign will not materialise.”

The panel debating during the European Parliament fisheries event in Grimsby Town Hall (Image: Patrick Daly, Grimsby Telegraph)

Industry figures see an opportunity for British fishermen to catch more after exiting the EU and the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), with the UK able to take control of its waters and the fish in it.

Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations (NFFO), said the EU had enjoyed an “exploitative relationship” with the UK in terms of its access to British waters. 

Speaking at the fisheries debate organised by the European Parliament on Friday, Mr Deas said European trawlers take four times the amount of fish out of UK seas compared with how much British fishermen take from EU waters. 

But Mr Corbett said the UN Convention Law of the Sea would force ministers to continue to negotiate with other countries over the management of shared fish stocks, even when outside the EU – a position which could leave Britain worse-off when negotiating future quota share in the North Sea.

“We will need negotiations and agreements much like we do now,” said Mr Corbett. “And would we do better in that situation? I’m not so sure we would when it is one of us against the rest of them who will have a united position,” said the former advisor to the European Council.

And Mr Corbett said the problem of British quota being owned by foreign vessels – a major problem in the catching sector which sees British fish landed on the Continent – could continue after Brexit as leaving the CFP would not change the “right of establishment” rules which allows for the transfer of quota.

European Parliament officials created a homage to Grimsby's former fishing industry (Image: Patrick Daly, Grimsby Telegraph)

NFFO boss Mr Deas, addressing Mr Corbett’s comments, said any future access for EU vessels to British waters should be “on our terms”. He said the UK and Norway could be jointly entitled to as much as 80 per cent of the fish quota in the North Sea.

Martyn Boyers, chief executive of Grimsby Fish Market, urged politicians to “get on with” Brexit and predicted the town’s industry would be able to “cope” with any changes that come.

“Grimsby has shown particular resilience to keep its fishing industry,” said the fish market boss. 

“I can’t see anything in Brexit that could be worse than what we went through in the Cod Wars. We need to get on with it and stop pontificating about what is going to happen. We need to make the best of it and make sure Grimsby survives.”

With the industry well-established – with the fish market, seafood processors, cold stores, fish smokers and transport businesses all in one place – Mr Boyers said Grimsby was “well-placed” to “overcome” the incoming challenges.

“As long as the demand is there, the businesses will take care of making sure the fish gets to the customers,” he said.

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