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UK fisheries have been one of the most contentious topics during the Brexit negotiations, but after a deal was struck between Britain and the EU, British fishermen can finally rejoice at the results. On Tuesday, Environment minister Mark Spencer told the Commons that the UK has an extra 30,000 tonnes of fishing quota as a result of leaving the EU.
He said: “The UK’s fishing opportunities are negotiated in three main forums. Firstly, UK-EU bilateral. Today the UK reached an agreement with the EU on total allowable catches for 2023 on 69 stocks as well as arrangements for non quota stocks.
“This deal provides fishing opportunities for more than 140,000 tonnes for the UK fleet and is worth around £282 million based on historic landing prices. As part of this deal, we have agreed access arrangements on albacore tuna, on spurdog in the North Sea for the first time through the UK-EU written record.
“For non quota stocks, we have agreed a rollover of access arrangements for 2023 to ensure continued access to fish non quota stocks in the EU waters worth around £25 million per year to the UK fleet.”
He added: “As a result of the quota share uplifts agreed in the trade and cooperation agreement, the UK has around 30,000 tonnes more quota from these negotiations and it would have received if it were as it would… as a previous member of the EU.”
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Mr Spencer also said the second main forum where the UK negotiates its fishing quotas is a trilateral arrangement with the EU and Norway in the North Sea and the third one is a deal with Norway, which “ensures stability in the UK white fish fishing industry through continued access to all the waters for 2023”.
At the Commons debate, Tory MP Waveney Peter Aldous urged the environment minister to publish the positions the UK took for the total allowable catch levels for each stock as “to revive the fishing industry post-Brexit, it is necessary to enhance trust”.
He said: “My right honourable friend highlighted that the total UK fishing opportunities secured across the three main negotiating forums totals £750 million, an increase of £34 million on the previous year. This has been an increase of 4.7 percent. Considerably below the level of inflation which is hitting fishing businesses particularly hard at the current time.
“I would be most grateful if my right honourable friend could add to his statement by answering the following questions: can he advise as to the preparatory work that is carried out to ensure that the UK achieves better outcomes from the negotiations now that we are participating as an independent coastal state and not part of the EU?”
He added: “To revive the fishing industry post-Brexit it is necessary to enhance trust and for Government to work in partnership with the devolved nations, industry, and conservation organisations. This is best achieved by increased transparency.
“Therefore, can my right honourable friend publish the positions that the UK took for the total allowable catch levels for each stock?
“Progress towards sustainable fishing requires accountability and making this information available would contribute towards this.”
Responding to Conservative MP Peter Aldous’ urgent question, he said: “He mentioned our negotiating position, and would we lay that out in public and I’m afraid to say to him directly, no is the answer to that.
“I’m not prepared to share our negotiating position.
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“I don’t think that’s how you get a good deal for the UK. That’s what we’ve been able to secure and I think if you put out in public where your red lines are before you enter the room, you tend to move those red lines very quickly and fall back from that position.”
Labour then pressed the Government to make sure “hard-hit” English fishing fleets get a fair deal from the quota negotiations.
Shadow environment minister Daniel Zeichner told the Commons: “While the minister speaks for the UK Government, the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland also play an important role in fisheries management.
“We ask again who speaks for England? Labour has consistently pointed out there is no-one who fights the corner for English fishing in these negotiations, and while the statement has been welcomed by the Scottish Government fishing sector, can the minister explain how much of the increase in catch will be available for the hard-hit English fishing sector?”
Mr Spencer replied: “We get the best deal for the UK and we try to divvy that deal up as best we can among those devolved administrations and around the coastline.
“I think we have struck the right balance and I would say to him if he wants to increase, it is of course entirely possible to increase quote for any part of they UK that you want to, but you have to take that off somebody else and if he wants to write to me and tell me who he wants to remove quota from, we will give due consideration to that representation.”
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