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Leaving the EU: Fishing Industry

Volume 650: debated on Wednesday 28 November 2018

6. What recent discussions he has had with the fishing industry in Scotland on access to UK fishing waters after the UK leaves the EU. (907838)

Fishing is of totemic importance in Scotland, and I regularly meet representatives of the fishing industry in Scotland to discuss the opportunities for the sector when we leave the EU.

As we have already heard, the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation has launched a campaign calling on all parties to back its pledge for the UK to take back control of our waters after we leave the European Union. I am pleased that the Secretary of State has signed that pledge. I have signed it and Scottish Conservatives are signing it. Does my right hon. Friend agree that all parties in this House should sign that pledge?

I absolutely do agree. When people stand up and say that they are speaking up for the fishing industry, they need to back that up. This pledge does exactly that, and I look forward to all 59 of Scotland’s MPs signing it. [Interruption.]

Order. There is quite a lot of noise in the Chamber, but I want to be able to hear the ordinarily distinctive burr of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael).

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the transitional arrangements will involve a period in which things will remain as they are, in order to provide certainty, but there is a clear mechanism for fishing to leave those transitional arrangements and to be part of the Fisheries Council in December 2020, to plan ahead for 2021.

I recently visited Atlantic Canada on a trade visit, where I met Canadian fisheries and ocean tech companies that are invested in Scotland. They are enthusiastic to work more closely with the UK once we have left the common fisheries policy to ensure that we have better balanced and managed fisheries. Can my right hon. Friend give me a commitment that we will do just that?

I am certainly able to give my hon. Friend a commitment in both regards. We are looking to work with important partners such as Canada, and to leave the common fisheries policy.

The Minister claims that the Scottish fishermen should rest easy because he has signed the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation’s pledge. A month ago, he signed a letter to the Prime Minister saying that he would resign if Northern Ireland was treated differently from Scotland because of the threat to Scotland. If he has not lived up to his resignation promise, how can the Scottish fishermen ever believe that he will live up to the promise he has made in the fishermen’s pledge?

I respect the right hon. Gentleman’s point of view, but I believe that the biggest threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom comes from those on the SNP Benches and from people who are seeking to bring about a no-deal Brexit. A no-deal Brexit is the most certain way to see Scotland leave the United Kingdom, and I am not going to support anything that brings that about.

The Secretary of State claims that this deal is a good deal, but on fishing, that claim was blown out of the water by President Macron of France before the ink was dry on the political declaration. The reality is that the Secretary of State cannot guarantee that the UK will not be pushed into the backstop indefinitely if access to waters and quota shares are not agreed with the European Union. That is an undeniable breach of his red line. He promised to resign over that very issue, yet he is still here, desperately claiming the false choice between no deal and a bad deal. When did he realise that he cared more about his ministerial Merc than about a good deal for Scotland’s fishermen?

Again, I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s taking an interest in fishing for the first time. If he listened to the fishermen, he would know that Bertie Armstrong, the chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation had said that no red lines had been crossed. What I find even more concerning in all these debates on fishing is that Scottish Labour is lining up with President Macron to do down this country. Our Prime Minister is fighting for the best possible deal for our fishermen. [Interruption.]

Order. There is a lot of noise in the Chamber, but I want to hear the voice of Erewash. I call Maggie Throup.