Thursday, 14 April 2016

Ex-Fisheries minister Ben Bradshaw responds to George Eustice's claims that we would claim back fishing rights up to 200 miles offshore

Exeter Labour MP Ben Bradshaw has accused fisheries minister George Eustice of making "wild claims" over the benefits of leaving the EU.

The Camborne and Redruth MP had claimed on a visit to Newlyn that British fishermen would be better off outside the EU.

It was the second setback for Mr Eustice, after his department said earlier that his claim that support for farmers would be maintained if the UK left the EU was his own view and not the government's.

Earlier this month Mr Eustice, the Defra minister and Vote Leave supporter, told the WMN: "If we were to leave the EU, we would re-establish control of our waters out to 200 nautical miles, and this would give us a starting point to renegotiate quota allocations for the UK."

In a letter today, Mr Bradshaw said: "George Eustice blithely asserts Britain could unilaterally impose a 200-mile fishing limit and that our fishermen would get bigger quotas if we left the European Union.

"Any sensible person considering these wild claims would understand them to be complete nonsense.

"The idea that if we voted to leave the EU, our neighbours Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France and others would simply fall over and allow us to impose a 200-mile limit is for the birds."

Mr Bradshaw said new agreements on fishing would have to be negotiated.

"Their generosity would be tempered by the turmoil a British vote to leave would cause. It is also hopelessly optimistic to assume a UK Government would prioritise fishing – given its sadly reduced importance to our economy as a whole – in the fraught and complex renegotiation of our relationship with the rest of Europe that would follow a vote to leave.

"The simple truth is fish are a shared and mobile resource. Good fisheries management which conserves stocks and ensures there are sustainable fisheries for our industry to catch requires us to work constructively with our near neighbours in waters that historically we have always shared.

"The alternative is conflict (remember the cod wars) a free-for-all, stock depletion and the resulting economic and environmental harm."

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This story followed on from MEP Julie Girlings response a few days ago:

Fishermen will not automatically sail into boom times if Britain votes to leave the EU in June, a new report says.

Leaving the European Union would not give UK fishermen and seafood companies any more autonomy than they already have, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has warned.

South West MEP Julie Girling welcomed the report after the industry publication Undercurrent reported that "Brexit" would not necessarily free up UK fishing quotas or mean autonomy for the British fleet.

Instead quotas would still need to be negotiated between the UK, the EU and any other member state involved, including Norway or Iceland, the MCS said.

Mrs Girling, Conservative MEP for the South West and Gibraltar, said: "I know that many blame the EU's Common Fisheries Policy for all the industry's ills, and historically they may have a point.

"But the CFP has been comprehensively reformed in recent years. While still not perfect, it is considerably better than it was. "And people in the industry might well consider it far better than the uncertainty, antagonism and wasted energy that would be involved in renegotiating from scratch our place in the fishing seascape. "This report explodes the myth that leaving the EU would somehow solve all fishing's problems at a stroke and give the industry overnight autonomy."

Debbie Crockard, senior fisheries policies advocate for the MSC, said fishermen shouldn't be under any impression that leaving the EU would automatically improve their fortunes.

Since December the UK has been free to apply for a share of £243million from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund to help businesses adapt to the reformed CFP, including the distribution of EC funds for the development of innovative gear for more selective gear.

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Debbie Crockard told Undercurrent News: "We would still be committed to international agreements to sustainable fishing.

"Leaving the EU would not change this, and additionally it is unlikely that 'foreign' fishing fleets would be excluded from UK waters due to them having acquired historic rights to fish in UK waters, with some stretching back as far as the Middle Ages."

Simon Collins, executive officer of the Shetland Fishermen's Association, told the trade publication Undercurrent News: "There is plenty of cause for bitterness there, particularly regarding the Common Fisheries Policy, which could sway a 'leave' vote. "With regards to the UK leaving the EU in relation to fisheries, this would not simply be a case of the UK leaving the EU and suddenly having access to all the quota that may exist in the UK exclusive economic zone. "The quotas will still need to be negotiated between the UK, the EU and any other member state involved, including Norway or Iceland."

Jim Portus from the South West Fish Producers Organisation said: "I don't think we're expecting an early bonus.

"I don't think anybody in the fishing industry has ever said it would be a quick fix. "There will be a period of renegotiation with our neighbours." He said the claim that fishermen now found the CFP more acceptable "depends on which end of the telescope you're looking from. Tell that to fishermen who have lost their jobs and fishing communities ripped apart by CFP."

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