Leaving the EU: Fisheries

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd March 2017.

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Photo of Douglas Carswell Douglas Carswell UKIP, Clacton 12:00 am, 2nd March 2017

What her policy is on the self-regulation of the UK fishing industry after the UK leaves the EU.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

There is already a degree of self-management of the fishing regime by producer organisations in the fishing industry through our system of trading quotas and markets in both the leasing and exchanging of quotas among producer organisations. However, leaving the EU does create the opportunity to consider how we manage our fisheries and to look at the approach taken by other countries.

Photo of Douglas Carswell Douglas Carswell UKIP, Clacton

Leaving the EU is a wonderful opportunity to rethink public policy. What are the Minister’s thoughts on ensuring better terms for UK fishermen and better access to our exclusive economic zone?

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

As the hon. Gentleman will know, I have consistently made it clear that leaving the EU means that we will take back control of our exclusive economic zone—the area out to 200 nautical miles or the median line—and that will allow us to look afresh at mutual access agreements and shares of the total allowable catch in shared waters.

Photo of David Davies David Davies Chair, Welsh Affairs Committee

As the Minister will know, current EU regulations prevent farmers from trimming hedges in August. Does he agree that Brexit therefore offers a great opportunity for trimming the regulations and rules that prevent hedge cutting at that time?

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority

I was hoping that there would be some linkage between hedge cutting and fishing previously unknown not only to the Chair but to humankind, but we will have to leave that for another occasion.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

They have in common the fact that they are policies that originate in the EU. Leaving the EU obviously gives us an opportunity to review some of those things, but we already have a derogation so that farmers who grow winter crops are able to trim their hedges a little earlier. Certain species are very vulnerable—particularly the yellowhammer, which breeds late—and we want to protect them.

Photo of Chris Law Chris Law Scottish National Party, Dundee West

Scottish farmed salmon has experienced a significant increase in exports to Canada. However, why did this Government not propose any Scottish geographical indicators in the comprehensive economic and trade agreement, despite indicating that not doing so would put the Scottish food industry at a commercial disadvantage?

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I reassure Scottish National party Members that I regularly promote Scottish salmon, most recently in the Gulf this week. Scottish salmon is one of our major exports, alongside Scottish whisky, and we champion it at every opportunity.

Photo of George Kerevan George Kerevan Scottish National Party, East Lothian

The chief executive of National Farmers Union Scotland, Scott Walker, has come up with a worthwhile idea on framing a post-Brexit support regime for agriculture and fishing. His suggestion is that the devolved Administrations should be allowed to choose from a menu of policies that are best applicable in their jurisdiction. Will the Minister look at that proposal?

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I specifically discussed proposals along those lines with NFU Scotland at the beginning of this year. A consensus is emerging that there needs to be some kind of UK framework, within which we obviously want to ensure that the devolved Administrations can pursue the policies that are right for them. We will work closely with all the devolved Administrations to ensure that, after we leave the European Union, policy works for Scotland and other parts of the UK.

Photo of Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Trade and Investment)

Not only can this Government not confirm where powers on our rural economy will lie after Brexit, but they cannot say how financial support for farmers will work, either. Why are the interests of Scottish farmers such a low priority for this Government?

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I do not accept what the hon. Lady says. The truth is that we have guaranteed payments up until 2020. We have ensured that the budget is still there, and we have made it clear that, well in advance of that date, we will be able to give farmers throughout the UK a very clear picture of what future support arrangements will look like.