I thank the hon. Lady for making that point. We all know why the Republic of Ireland has decided to have this debate about the hard border: it has taken away from its having to address the important, hard questions that it should have been considering, such as what sort of trade relationship it should have with its biggest trading partner, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It did not want to address that matter; it wanted to hide behind the issue of the hard border to confuse things and camouflage the real, important issue.
I raise that matter because according to the European Union’s most recent report into fishing and agriculture, if the Republic of Ireland does not get a trade agreement with the United Kingdom, it will lose a staggering €5.5 billion from its agri-food and fishing industry. It has been reported that the study
“prepared for the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development lays bare the full potential impact of a hard Brexit and singles out the Ireland as one of the most badly hit member states.”
Yet what has that member state done? Has it tried to help in this? Has it tried to make the voisinage agreement work? No, it has done everything to penalise Ulster fishermen and Ulster farmers, and it should be ashamed of how it has behaved.
I hope that that sends the message to the Spanish and the French that that is how the Republic of Ireland is going to treat them, and about what sort of hard border it will have when it suits it. Little wonder that we have had so many problems with the Republic of Ireland over the past two years during this negotiating period.
The Fisheries Bill should lead to a revival of our coastal towns, as we have heard from across the Chamber today, and I hope that it really does. There is one way in which we could achieve that, and I appeal to the Secretary of State and the Minister to do this. During the transition period, will they use every effort possible, and every investment opportunity available, to invest in our coastal towns and put them in a state of preparedness by increasing their production ability and improving their harbours? I hope that we can do the same for Scotland as well. It is critical that we have harbours across our nation that are able to land the catches that will be available to us, and that we have processing industries in place from Argyll and Bute in Scotland to Portavogie and Kilkeel. All those things should be put in place, and we can do that only during the transition period. If we are not ready then, we will not be ready when we leave the transition period. I hope that we actually do this.
There is a fear that the withdrawal agreement, the Fisheries Bill and the transition period, when they are taken together, all mean different things to different folk at different times. As the right hon. Member for Witham said, we need clarity in this debate. We have heard something of that today from the Secretary of State, but we need to hear more. We also need to ensure that all these things dovetail properly so that our fishermen receive the clarity of language and meaning that they are entitled to. We have already heard some discussion about whether article 6(2) actually means what it says. Will it, for example, penalise our fishermen if a backstop is brought into place? I believe that it will, although the Minister assures me that it will not. We need more certainty on that point. If the Secretary of State were a lawyer, he would not be recommending article 6(2) to a client, and if it will penalise our fishermen, we should not be accepting it for one of our key industries in Northern Ireland.
The Bill fails to account for crew shortages. The immigration White Paper is not yet ready, and we will be able to make sense of this matter only when we get that White Paper. I hope that we will hear words today that will address that issue, and that we will know sooner rather than later what the immigration White Paper will say about addressing the key matter of crew shortages. In addition, Northern Ireland demands fairness in how it is treated in the sharing out of quotas between Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales. It is essential that we get that fairness; otherwise, it could be catastrophic for how we behave internally as a nation.
I also regret that the Bill does not refer to an advisory council to help with management. Such bodies have proved most beneficial in Norway and Australia. There is also the key issue of our Crown dependencies. The European Union is able to take fish freely from the seas around our Crown dependencies, and we need to ensure that we have some sort of an agreement with Crown dependencies such as the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. Finally, I pay tribute to the Minister as he prepares for his penultimate or final December Fisheries Council meeting. I wish him all the very best as he wishes bon voyage to Europe.