Fisheries Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:36 pm on 21st November 2018.

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Photo of David Duguid David Duguid Conservative, Banff and Buchan 4:36 pm, 21st November 2018

Thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker; I appreciate that, as I had already tried to pare down my speech to the 10 minutes suggested earlier.

It is a pleasure to follow Angus Brendan MacNeil. As he mentioned, he, Mr Carmichael, Jim Shannon, who unusually is not in the Chamber, and I have the same consistent issue of access not to EU labour—this is not a Brexit issue—but to the non-EEA labour on which the fishing industry has become dependent over the years.

I welcome this opportunity to speak about the Bill and I welcomed the Secretary of State’s opening speech. The fisheries sector is hugely significant in my constituency of Banff and Buchan. Peterhead is the largest white fish port in Europe, and a little further up the coast is the port of Fraserburgh. They are the two largest towns in my constituency. A little further around the coast is the smaller—but no less significant to its local community—port of Macduff. In terms of tonnage, almost half the fish landed by UK-registered boats is landed in my constituency.

Not just fishermen, but the wider communities around the coast of my constituency and of the UK, have lost a great deal over the decades we have been in the common fisheries policy. There has been not only a loss of livelihood, the scrapping of boats and the closure of businesses, but fundamentally a loss of what identifies these coastal communities and the people who live there, who remember what once was. Quite rightly, the people in these communities look forward to making the most of the sea of opportunity presented by our leaving the EU and the CFP.

Everyone who speaks in this debate, and those watching in fishing communities around the UK, are keenly aware that Parliament will soon review the proposed EU withdrawal agreement, the impact on fisheries of which is not insignificant. It is therefore difficult to discuss the Bill without referring to the withdrawal agreement, the outline political declaration, or any new future fisheries agreement. I am very much aware of concerns expressed by fishing interests in my constituency and beyond. I have been reviewing the text of the agreement, as well as taking on board input from members of the fishing community, industry representatives and trade bodies, among a host of various stakeholders. My Scottish Conservative colleagues and I have made our position clear to the Government, and we look forward to working with Ministers to find a resolution to the range of concerns raised.

The variety of concerns can be summed up in two words: timings and leverage. On timings, we will leave the EU in March 2019, and when we do so, we leave the common fisheries policy. That is not a political decision, but a matter of legality—we cannot be in the CFP if we are not in the EU. Likewise, we cannot be in the EU, which would be the position of Opposition Members, and not in the CFP.

The agreement states that we enter an implementation period at that point, with that period ending on 31 December 2020. As others have mentioned, it would be welcome if clause 42 included the phrase “no later than December 2022”, because by that time, we must be in a position in which we have completed our first negotiations as an independent coastal state in time for our beginning to realise the opportunities that that presents for the calendar year 2021.

When we first enter negotiations in December 2020, we must have the maximum possible leverage. We have seen in recent media reports from the continent that EU fishing interests are far from pleased that the text of the agreement makes no mention of retaining guaranteed automatic access to UK waters post Brexit. If we are to have the maximum possible leverage in annual coastal state negotiations from December 2020, we must resist the EU’s demands for any continued automatic access to our waters. As the Prime Minister confirmed in her response to my question on this subject last week, we must not accept the EU’s attempts to link future trade agreements with automatic access to UK waters.