Leaving the EU: UK Fish Exports

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th July 2018.

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Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Labour, Exeter 12:00 am, 12th July 2018

What steps the Government are taking to ensure that UK fish exports have free and frictionless market access to the rest of Europe in the event of the UK leaving the EU.

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

We want to secure an agreement with the European Union that ensures tariff-free and frictionless market access for fisheries products. That is of course a separate negotiation from those on fishing opportunities and access to waters, which will be founded on the UK’s legal status as an independent coastal state and will be consistent with fisheries agreements internationally.

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Labour, Exeter

Commiserations on the tennis, Mr Speaker.

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Labour, Exeter

I welcome the Secretary of State’s belated recognition that we cannot have frictionless exports to the European Union for our fish and agriculture products if we are not in a single market, as the Chequers agreement recognises. Will he explain why his fellow hard-Brexiteers do not seem to grasp that simple truth? Do they just not care about our fish and agricultural exports?

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

It would be wrong to say that the position put forward in the Chequers agreement is analogous to membership of the single market or the European economic area. The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that membership of the European economic area and the single market does not guarantee entirely frictionless access to the European Union for fisheries or other products.

Photo of Martin Vickers Martin Vickers Conservative, Cleethorpes

Many fisheries and seafood-processing companies in my constituency have come together with other businesses to express interest in the concept of a free port, post-Brexit. Will the Secretary of State assure them that the Government will agree to nothing that would prevent a future Government from designating free ports?

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

It would be reckless of any Government to do anything that would imperil the ambitions and aspirations exhibited by the exemplary constituents whom my hon. Friend serves so well.

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Devolved Government Relations), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment and Rural Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales)

The White Paper makes it clear that the Government do not intend to change the method for allocating existing quotas. Two thirds of UK fish quotas are controlled by three huge companies, and small boats are being squeezed. Is it not time for the Government to admit that Scotland’s fishermen will see absolutely no benefit from Brexit, but will lose access to the world’s biggest marketplace?

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Almost everything in that question was wrong, but that does not surprise me because almost everything in the Scottish National party’s position on fisheries is wrong. It wants to stay in the European Union and therefore in the common fisheries policy and yet it wants Scotland’s fishermen to enjoy all the advantages of being outside the common fisheries policy. Some Members of this House have been accused of wanting to have their cake and eat it. I am afraid that SNP Members want to have a whole chain of bakeries and eat everything in them. If hypocrisy were a term that was allowed to be used in this House, then it would fit the Scottish National party like a bunnet.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee

There is no prohibition on the use of the term. It can apply to a collective, but not to an individual. The judgment as to whether the Minister is on the right side of the line falls to me. Happily, from the point of view of the right hon. Gentleman, he has not erred.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West

Persuade me that the common rulebook is not the acquis by another name.

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The acquis is, of course, a French term and the common rulebook is an Anglo-Saxon one, and therefore they are happily distinct. I know that my right hon. Friend is fond of Anglo-Saxon terms and pithy ones at that. One thing I would say about the common rulebook is that it governs goods and it governs agri-foods only in so far as is necessary to have free and frictionless access. In that respect, we remain, and will be, a sovereign nation.