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Gove informed of ‘palpable anger’ within fishing industry

Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.
Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

NORTHERN Isles MP Alistair Carmichael used a House of Commons debate on Tuesday to tell UK environment minister Michael Gove there was a mood of “palpable anger” in fishing communities like Shetland over the fisheries deal agreed with the EU.

On Monday it emerged that the UK will remain a member of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) after it leaves the EU in 12 months’ time until the end of a transitional arrangement in December 2020.

Fishing leaders described that as a let down and a betrayal of promises made during and since the Brexit campaign.

“The mood in fishing communities is one of palpable anger,” Carmichael said in parliament. “This is not what they were promised. And the basic question that the secretary of state has to answer today is this: if they can let us down like this over the deal for a transitional period, how do we know that they will not do it again when it comes to the final deal. When it comes to it, will they trade away access for waters for access to markets or anything else?”

The Liberal Democrat MP also questioned how the “bizarre arrangement” would work in practice.

The EU-Norway-Faroe mackerel deal is due to expire at the end of the year, and Carmichael said it had been thought that deal would “be rolled over for 12 months” – going on to ask what “barrier will there be to the EU Commission agreeing another bad deal for our pelagic fleet?”

In relation to the ban on discards, he said British boats had a “particular problem with hake as a choke species” which was not an issue for other nations’ fleets. “Does he really expect that the other 27 member countries are going to come up with a solution to something that is a problem only for us and not for them?”

Responding on the government’s behalf, Gove said: “I completely understand how fishing communities feel about the situation at the moment. I share their disappointment.”

He said fishing occupied a “special position in these negotiations”, claiming the UK had “pressed hard” to ensure the UK sat alongside other coastal states as “a third country and equal partner in annual quota negotiations”, and was “disappointed that the EU were not willing to move on this”.

Gove said the revised text clarified that the UK’s share of quotas “will not change during the implementation period” and “any attempts by the EU to operate in a way which would harm the fishing industry would breach that obgliation”.

“We are at the table, as a full member state for negotiations in December 2018, and critically in December 2020, we will be negotiating fishing opportunities as a third country and independent coastal state, deciding who can access our waters, and on what terms for the first time in 40 years.”

Speaking after the debate, Carmichael said the minister had been “clear and careful with his language” in talking up “opportunities for the industry” post-Brexit, but “gave no assurances that these opportunities would not be bargained away as they have been so often in the past”.