Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Brexit sweetener? - financial boost for fishing from Gove.

The UK government will table an amendment to its Brexit fisheries bill which will aim to "enshrine its commitment to secure a fairer share of fishing opportunities" for UK fishermen, it has said.

The amendment would place a legal obligation on the secretary of state, when negotiating a fisheries agreement with the EU, to pursue a fairer share of fishing opportunities than the UK currently receives under the common fisheries policy (CFP).

This, the government said, would overhaul the current system where UK fishermen have received a "poor deal that is based on fishing patterns from the 1970s".

"On average between 2012 and 2016 other EU member states’ vessels landed in the region of 760,000 [metric tons] of fish (£540 million revenue) annually caught in UK waters; whereas UK vessels landed approximately 90,000t of fish (£110m revenue) caught in other member states’ waters per year in the same time period."

As well as strengthening the law, the UK environment secretary, Michael Gove, announced £37.2m of extra funding to boost the UK fishing industry during the Brexit "implementation period".

This is in addition to the existing European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) funding, which at €243m over seven years is broadly equivalent to £32m a year, it said.

The government and devolved administrations (Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales) have already committed to match the EMFF funding with around £60m, so the extra funding will support more projects and the sector will benefit by a total of £320m, the government said.

Gove has also committed that the government will put in place new, domestic, long-term arrangements to support the UK’s fishing industry from 2021, through the creation of four new schemes comparable to EMFF to deliver funding for each nation. The devolved administrations will lead on their own schemes.

"We are taking back control of our waters and will secure a fairer share of fishing opportunities for the whole of the UK fishing industry as we leave the EU. The amendment to the Fisheries Bill will give legal weight to this commitment," said Gove.

"New funding will boost the industry as we become an independent coastal state, preparing it to receive a greater share of future fishing opportunities. The new schemes will be introduced after EMFF has closed in 2020. Details of these will be set at the 2019 spending review."

In England, the scheme is designed to:

  • support innovation -- in technologies to enhance economic growth, reduce environmental impact and improve fishing safety
  • improve port infrastructure -- so more fish can be landed in UK ports, and help the sector take advantage of new export opportunities after exit
  • boost coastal communities -- by providing benefits to areas that depend on a vibrant and profitable industry, and
  • help the sector adjust -- to new arrangements on access and fishing opportunities by improving capacity and capability to exploit new export opportunities and markets.
  • The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation welcomed the amendment to the bill, and the commitment of extra resources for the sector to aid the UK's transition to an independent coastal state and beyond.

"Particularly pleasing is the rejection of French president Emmanuel Macron's suggestion that existing shares of fish be maintained post-Brexit, and the establishment instead of a platform for annual negotiations to move towards much fairer shares."

The industry remains adamant that there must be no link between access to UK waters and trade with the EU, it said. Fears had been growing among the UK fishing sector, as it became clear the text of the fisheries bill left room for such a trade-off.