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Fisheries Negotiations

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 19th November 2019.

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Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

I am sorry. I would certainly give way if I had the time, but I have only two minutes left.

It is clear to me that when we negotiate trade deals, we negotiate trade deals; we cannot say to the European Union, “We want to negotiate everything—oh, except fishing.” That is just not going to happen.

In the short time that I have left, I will focus on our inshore waters. Members will have received a briefing from the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation. In contrast to the “sea of opportunity” that we have so often heard that Brexit will offer our fishing industry, the creel fishermen are worried about what Brexit might bring. Three quarters of Scotland’s 2,000 fishing boats are under 10m long. The fishermen have little to gain but much to lose from Brexit. If our trade talks fail and we face a no-deal Brexit at the end of next year, fishermen face the real possibility of their produce going bad in the lorry parks of Dover as the lorries wait for access to our European markets. To them, Brexit is far from being a “sea of opportunity”. I will quote Alistair Sinclair, who is the SCFF’s national co-ordinator. He has said that

“shellfish are now our main target species and we are witnessing signs that before long they too could decline dramatically as has already been witnessed in some areas. We do not need tariffs and lengthy customs barriers as well.”

I could not agree more. That is why we perhaps need an inshore fisheries bill sooner rather than later.

The Liberal Democrats support the Scottish Government’s motion and wish the cabinet secretary well in the annual December negotiations. It is unfortunate, to say the least, that in the run-up to those negotiations, the threat—that is what it is—of Brexit is hanging over them.

We support the Scottish Government’s commitment to respect stock sustainability in next year’s quotas, and we support its efforts to achieve the best possible outcomes for Scotland’s fishermen, the wider sector and all our coastal communities.