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Leaving the EU: Agriculture and Fisheries Management

Volume 644: debated on Thursday 12 July 2018

Mr Speaker, thank you for your indulgence on the line call earlier in saying that the ball was in.

The Government’s consultation setting out the policy framework for agriculture in England after the UK leaves the EU closed on 8 May. All responses have been analysed and will be used to inform future policy. A report of the findings will be published in due course. Plans for the reform of fisheries management when the UK leaves the EU were set out in the “Sustainable fisheries for future generations” White Paper, which was published on 4 July.

What post-Brexit safeguards are being put in place to stop EU vessels registering in the UK simply to farm our waters of fish, as happened in the Factortame case, if there is to be a common rulebook in the agriculture and food sector?

The hon. Lady raises some very important points. The first thing to say is that the Factortame case was a case that relied on the supremacy of the European Court of Justice. The supremacy of the European Court of Justice will end under the Government’s proposals for leaving the European Union; that is quite clear. The second thing is that the common rulebook on agri-food applies only to those sanitary and phytosanitary requirements that allow us frictionless access to the EU. That means that we will be outside the common agricultural policy and outside the common fisheries policy. It is also the case that economic link conditions can be reformed in such a way to meet the needs that she points out.

What consideration has been given to changing the fishing-quota-based system post Brexit to either a percentage-based system or a days-at-sea-based system, which would significantly help my fishermen in Newhaven?

My hon. Friend stands up very well for the fisher people of Newhaven. One thing we can do outside the common fisheries policy, as the fisheries White Paper spells out, is reallocate additional quota and we can also—and we propose to do this—pilot days-at-sea or effort-based methods of fisheries control. We hope to work with inshore fishermen such as those whom she represents so well.

The truth is that the Government could be taking action today to support the UK’s catching sector. Instead, they are sending the most lucrative licences out of the UK. Why?

Well, we are in the European Union at the moment and governed by its rules and that is why the people of Grimsby voted to leave.

When will the farmers and crofters in my constituency know the shape and content of the UK-wide framework for the payment of agricultural support post Brexit?

There are many important things for the farmers whom the right hon. Gentleman represents, but the details of how payments will be paid have been laid out by the Scottish Government, by the relevant Cabinet Secretary, Fergus Ewing, and I know that he is consulting on those proposals.

As my right hon. Friend will be profoundly aware, the EU Commission wishes to maintain guaranteed and continued access to UK waters even after we leave the EU and the common fisheries policy. I am pleased that, in the fisheries White Paper published last week and in discussions with fishermen during his visit to Peterhead in my constituency last week, he confirmed that that is not the position of this Government. Will he confirm again today that, as negotiations with the EU continue, this Government will not allow the Commission to conflate its access to British waters with our access to EU markets?

It is a delight to see the DEFRA team still in their place, but may I offer a special welcome to the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the hon. Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey), who we have missed? We hope that she enjoys her time back as part of the team.

Will the Government tell us exactly who they can sign a free trade deal with, apart from the EU, whereby we do not degrade either environmental protection or animal welfare standards?