I congratulate Scott Mann on securing the debate. While speaking within the terms of reference of the debate, I will also make some comments on Europe. In 2015, the UK’s deficit in trading goods and services with the EU was £69 billion, while the surplus with non-EU countries was £30 billion. The figures are clear. What is not clear are the steps that must now be taken to secure trade deals for companies.
We must remember that when article 50 is invoked and we leave Europe, the seas around the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will be open to all those who fly the British flag—to us in Portavogie, in my constituency of Strangford, as well as those in Brixham and in Looe; we look forward to working with our fishing comrades in the south-west. We must also remember that companies such as Rich Sauces service places as far away as America, while Pritchitts and Lakeview dairies are looking to markets in the far east. Those are farm products that are farmed and produced at home. We look forward to those opportunities, as do those in the south-west of England.
For years, red tape has bound farmers. Common-sense farming was no longer allowed, and farming became a pen pusher’s dream and a worker’s nightmare. I commend the Government, and the Minister in particular, for guaranteeing current EU farm subsidies, which make up some 50% to 60% of UK farm income, until 2020. The fishing industry has been slowly choked to death over the years. Our fishing boats have been forced to stay at home with no compensation while every other Tom, Dick and Harry fishes our seas. Our sea is heaving with fish—that is clear for all but the scientists to see— while our boat equipment is not suitable for fishing the seas that our fishermen need to fish, because the EU says so.
I will focus on where we go from here. For our fishermen, the answer is: we go back to work. We go back to fishing our seas sensibly, ensuring that we do not overfish them, that we do our part for marine conservation, that vessels have high safety standards, and that the fishing industry has the ability to thrive once again. We must also ensure that our fleets have the ability to access international waters, and that there is freedom, within whatever policy is put in place, to let fishermen do their job.
The Government, led by the Prime Minister, have a lot to do, and we encourage the negotiation team. The UK as a whole has a lot more to do to ensure that we ignore the uncertainty and make the most of this opportunity. We must feed into this process positively to ensure that our fishermen, our farmers and our expert food industry are able to grow from the decision to leave Europe, which I fully support and which they support as well. We can again stand on our own two feet, and we will do so knowing that we are striving at all levels, regardless of personal opinions, to deliver for all in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.