Ministers will be obliged to get best deal for fishermen – Mundell

Proposed changes to fishing legislation will ensure the industry prospers as the UK leaves the EU, Scottish Secretary David Mundell said.

Mr Mundell said the UK Government will table an amendment to the Fisheries Bill which will make it a legal obligation for ministers to pursue a better share of fishing rights than the UK currently receives under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

According to the Scotland Office, between 2012 and 2016 other EU member states’ vessels landed about 760,000 tonnes of fish caught in UK waters a year, with UK vessels landing approximately 90,000 tonnes caught in other member states’ waters.

Speaking ahead of a visit to Peterhead fish market in Aberdeenshire on Monday, Mr Mundell announced £37.2 million of extra funding as new fishing arrangements are put in place, with Scotland’s share at £16.4 million.

He said: “This change to the Fisheries Bill creates a watertight commitment to getting the best possible deal for Scotland’s fishermen and their communities and should give them a great deal of confidence about the future.

“The extra funding announced today will also help support our fishermen over the implementation period. These announcements are great news for Scotland and will help the sector as it gets ready to take full advantage of the many benefits leaving the EU will have for our fishermen.”

The announcement was welcomed by the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation.

Chief executive Bertie Armstrong said: “The industry remains adamant that there must be no link between access to UK waters and trade with the EU.

“We look forward to contributing to UK and Scottish Government consultations on allocation of the additional funding both for transition and after Brexit to help manage expansion of the sector.

“As we move into a new era of fisheries management, the SFF is committed to ensuring that Brexit benefits fishermen who operate vessels of all sizes right across our coastal communities.”

Scotland’s Fisheries Secretary Fergus Ewing has meanwhile written to UK ministers voicing concerns over what he said was potential damage to Scotland’s aquaculture and seafood interests in the current EU withdrawal agreement.

In a letter to Environment Secretary Michael Gove, he wrote: “The Withdrawal Agreement reached by the UK Government risks being very damaging to Scotland’s aquaculture and wider seafood interests, with its explicit linkage of trade and access to UK waters in direct contradiction to what was promised in the UK Government’s White Paper on Fisheries.

“Despite the Prime Minister’s claims, a direct link between seafood trade and access to waters has been conceded, allowing for exclusion of fisheries and aquaculture from tariff-free access through a temporary customs union under the ‘backstop’, if a fisheries agreement acceptable to the EU cannot be achieved.

“Worse still, aquaculture has been included in this linkage despite having no connection to access to waters or quota.”

He added: “At a time when we should be actively encouraging investment in Scotland’s economy, the UK Government has elected to go down a path that only sows the seeds of doubt and confusion.

“The Withdrawal Agreement has the potential to set one vital Scottish sector against another, and shows a complete disregard for these key Scottish interests.”

A Defra spokeswoman said: “As the Scottish Government’s own report in June noted, the gains for the UK economy from receiving a fairer share of fishing opportunities are significant and outweigh the negative impact of a possible increase in tariff and non-tariff barriers.

“However, the UK Government has been clear that it will secure the most frictionless trade possible in goods between the UK and EU as part of our Future Economic Partnership.”

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