Row flares over post-Brexit fishing rights

UK Labour and SNP MEPs have been accused of ignoring the interests of British fishermen, and also of backing an attempt by the European Parliament to keep the UK inside the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) post-Brexit.

The Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Greens also supported the threat to exclude British fish from any future trade deal with the EU unless the UK continues to apply the CFP. 

The proposal is contained in a wider report on fish products entering the EU, which was passed by the Parliament.

Conservative Fisheries Spokesman Nosheena Mobarik described the parties' decision to vote in favour of the report as "astonishing".

She said: "I cannot understand how any British MEP can endorse what amounts to blackmail by the European Parliament. This report says the UK must either give up the right to exercise control over its fishing grounds or face losing EU markets for its fish.

"If it became policy it would cost jobs amongst our fishermen and in our coastal communities. While Conservative MEPs stood up for Britain's interests, the fisheries sector was betrayed today by Labour, the SNP, Lib Dems, the Greens and Plaid Cymru. This vote will not be forgotten by our fishing communities."

Ministers have pledged the UK will take control of its fishing waters at the end of the implementation period in December 2020. Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands all cooperate with the EU on fisheries affairs but are not forced to be part of the CFP

Baroness Mobarik continued: "Conservative MEPs have faith that, free from EU red tape and outdated systems, the UK can become a strong and dynamic maritime nation, as an island should be. It seems that the opposition parties have no such ambitions for our fishing fleet."

 he report was politicised during its passage through the Parliament's Fisheries Committee when an amendment was inserted calling on the European Commission, "when drafting a post-Brexit agreement, to make the UK's access to the  market for fishery and aquaculture products dependent on EU vessels' access to British waters and on the application of the Common Fisheries Policy."

As a so-called 'own initiative' report it is unlikely to become law but nevertheless sends a strong signal about the Parliament's view.

Meanwhile, potential cuts to future funding of the Common Agricultural Policy are the biggest threat facing farmers in the EU, according to ECR agriculture co-ordinator Jim Nicholson.

He insists that the agricultural sector should not be penalised for financial pressures caused by Brexit and by demands for more funding for other areas of EU spending such as security and migration.

Nicolson told the European Parliament: "A large net contributor like the UK does not leave the EU without it having affects but I believe very strongly that farmers should not be made to pay the price.

"EU farmers proudly produce food to the highest standards globally and they must be able to continue to do so in the future.

"The next CAP needs to give farmers the necessary tools to keep them competitive in the international market place and to protect the rural economy from extreme price volatility and market crisis."

MEPs  backed a parliamentary report responding to the European Commission's communication on the future of food and farming, which itself is a precursor to the next CAP which they are due to propose this Friday and would come into effect in 2021.

The report contains many ECR amendments and has been broadly welcomed by the Group.

 Nicholson said:  "While we have some concerns we welcome the emphasis on a simpler and more transparent system of payments to farmers, targeted payments and more powers for Member States to design their own strategies for implementing the CAP more effectively."

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Martin Banks

Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a highly qualified journalist with many years experience of working within the EU institutions. He is an occasional, and highly valued, contributor to EU today, writing on a wide variety of issues.

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