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Leaving the EU: Common Fisheries Policy

Volume 630: debated on Thursday 26 October 2017

11. Whether the rules of the common fisheries policy will apply to the UK during any transition period in the event that the UK leaves the EU. (901410)

As the Prime Minister made clear to the House on 11 October, when we leave the European Union we will leave the common fisheries policy, and we leave the EU in March 2019. However, the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will bring across current EU legislation to provide continuity on the day we leave. In the context of fisheries, that will include the body of technical conservation regulations currently set by the EU.

That is very interesting: we will not have a voice at the table but we will have to abide by all the CFP rules. Can the Minister give an assurance to our industry, which exports more than 80% of what it catches straight to the rest of Europe, that it will not face any tariffs or other barriers during or after that transition period?

We are seeking a comprehensive free trade agreement and trade would continue as usual during the transition period. The right hon. Gentleman is wrong to say that we would not have a seat at the table. He is familiar with fisheries negotiations and knows that they are annual events, whether we are negotiating with EU member states at December Council, with EU-Norway or at coastal states meetings. We will become an independent coastal state on the day we leave the European Union in March 2019.

I welcome the Government’s commitment to listen to the views of the food sector and to ensure that it has a strong voice in the EU exit negotiations. Does the Minister share my view that the interests both of Scottish fishermen and of those in the other devolved nations must not be sacrificed during the negotiations?

I very much agree with my hon. Friend and I know that many Scottish Conservative MPs have worked closely with Scottish industry on the issue. The fishing industry is very important in Scotland. Roughly half of the industry is located there, and sectors such as the pelagic sector, which targets mackerel, the largest fish species that we target in this country, are of incredible economic importance. I reassure my hon. Friend that I regularly meet fishing industry leaders in Scotland to discuss their concerns.

May I take this opportunity to send our sincere condolences to the family of the crew member of the fishing vessel Solstice who sadly died at sea since the last DEFRA questions?

While the Brexit negotiations on the common fisheries policy continue, the fishing Minister will appreciate that the safety of our fishermen and women must be paramount. The Solstice is the third fishing vessel to sink involving the loss of life in the last two years where there has been a delay in launching lifeboats. With that in mind, will the Minister reassure the fishing industry that he is working with his colleagues in the Department for Transport to secure a full investigation into the Solstice, in order to rebuild confidence in the fishing community that the coastguard is able to respond quickly and effectively to incidents at sea?

I join the hon. Lady in offering sincere condolences to the family of the crew member who sadly lost his life with the loss of the Solstice in the west country. She will be aware that this issue is covered by the Department for Transport and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, but I have had the opportunity to discuss the matter with my colleague the shipping Minister, and I know that the marine accident investigation unit will carry out an investigation in the normal way. In addition, and to respond to the points the hon. Lady has raised, he has asked the marine accident investigation unit to consider whether we have adequately learned the lessons from previous accidents—which, as she said, have some similarities—and whether there are wider trends on which we ought to reflect and change policy.