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Fishing Policy

Volume 645: debated on Thursday 19 July 2018

9. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on negotiations with the EU on fishing policy for when the UK leaves the EU. (906543)

We work closely with Ministers and officials from all Departments, including DEFRA, to further our preparations for exit from, and a new partnership with, the EU. This includes discussions on the recently published future framework White Paper and the fisheries White Paper.

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. Can she confirm that her Department shares the commitment of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to the UK having full control of our territorial waters when we leave the EU, with trade in fish and fish products being a completely separate matter, and that there will be no trade deals linked to access to our fisheries?

The Government are clear that upon our exit from the European Union the UK will be an independent coastal nation free to set our own rules including on access to our waters and fisheries policies, and we seek to agree a process for future annual negotiations with the EU on access and fishing opportunities. I hope that that reassures my hon. Friend that we will be taking back control of this significant sector of our economy.

With our leaving the EU next year, access to European funds that have done a great deal for fishing communities around coastal areas will be lost. Will the Government themselves replace those funds in the same way that they propose to deal with funding for farmers?

I was delighted to visit the hon. Lady’s Grimsby constituency earlier this year and I know how energetic she is as a representative of her constituents. The fundamental principle, as set out in the fisheries White Paper and the future framework, is that we—this Parliament—will be in control of how we distribute funding, how we set the rules and how we empower our fishing communities around the country.

I tell the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Melanie Onn) that I have not visited her constituency recently, but during the general election campaign, in Buckingham, in the market square in Winslow, I did buy, and then consume, fish that was, of course, from Grimsby.

Notwithstanding what the Minister has said and what her colleagues have said on previous occasions, she will be aware that in fishing communities there are still concerns that the Government will use fishing in some way and make further concessions. Can she give an absolute guarantee that there will be no further concessions on fisheries?

Again, I was very happy to visit my hon. Friend’s constituency as part of my travels as a Minister. Like him, I represent a coastal constituency, where we know that our fishermen work very hard to earn their livings. The Government have been absolutely clear that once we leave the EU and no longer abide by the common fisheries policy, we will be an independent coastal state managing our fisheries and controlling access to our own waters. I hope that that reassures my hon. Friend.